Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem

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In 1909 the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem purchased a plot of land in Bethany and erected two buildings for the needs of pilgrims. During World War I, Turkish soldiers occupied the premises and, not only left everything in disorder, but took down doors and window frames. For lack of funds after the Russian Revolution, the buildings stood neglected.

In 1932, two British women  - Barbara-Stella Robinson and Alix Sprot were traveling to India, and on the way made a stop in Jerusalem. Here they became acquainted with Orthodoxy, converted, and decided to remain in the Holy Land.  Archbishop Anastassy tonsures them nuns and gave them the names of Mary and Martha, respectively.

With the blessings of the Synod of Bishops, sisters Mary and Martha organized a community in Bethany, dedicated to the Resurrection of the Lord, and brought the buildings in order. Soon after sister Mary was put in charge and made abbess.

In 1937 the community established a school for Orthodox girls. A year later a new two-story school building was erected. Later, a third floor was added.  Today, the school's program goes up to grade nine, and enrollment averages about 350 girls, both Muslim and Christian.

The Bethany community has a church dedicated to St Lazarus, the feast day being on Lazarus Saturday. It also has a cave with an altar dedicated to St Nicholas the Wonderworker, patron saint of the school.  Near the cave stands a chapel with a large stone that was found on the premises, with the following inscription in Greek: "Here Martha and Mary heard from the Lord word about resurrection from the dead... The Lord..."

Soon after the community was founded, church authorities suggested that it move to Gethsemane. Sister Martha remained in Bethany to look after the school, while Abbess Mary and the majority of sisters went to Gethsemane.

So came into being the convent of St Mary Magdalene, but officially it still bears the name - Bethany Community of the Resurrection of the Lord.

The grounds in Gethsemane were not intended as a nunnery and lacked many facilities, but slowly all the needed buildings were erected. Today there are 30 sisters, with 4 residing in Bethany. 

Abbess Mary died in 1969 and was succeeded by Abbess Barbara, then came Abbesses Theodosia and Anna. The current mother superior is Abbess Elizabeth. Deputy superior is Mother Magdalene. Mother Agapia (Stephanopoulos) is head of the school.

Bethany School
P.O. Box 20607
Jerusalem 91205, Israel
Tel: 972-2 / 279-0316 community
Tel: 972-2 / 279-9797 school
Russian Ecclesiastical Mission, P.O. Box 20164, Jerusalem 91200, Israel,
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