Due to the prevalence of tiny grey stones, the hill is known as the Field of Grey Peas, or Stony Peas, in local Christian tradition. According to legend, the stones represent the bitter harvest of a farmer who scolded Christ soon before his arrest and crucifixion: Christ had approached a farmer sowing peas while traveling along the hillside and enquired as to what he was growing. The peas were reported to have turned to stone after Christ's burial.
When you pass by a site on the left on your trip from Bethlehem to Jerusalem that stands like a fortress on a height that overlooks both Jerusalem and Bethlehem, you'll find the Mar Saba Monastery. It lies 4 kilometers north of Bethlehem and within a few minutes' walk from the Mar Saba Monastery.
This is the Prophet Elijah's stone church, known in Arabic as Mar Elias, which is located near Rachel's Tomb at Bethlehem's northern gate on the old Jerusalem-Hebron route.
The Jerusalem-Hebron Road existed even before the birth of Christ, with Bethlehem serving as the first stop for travelers to fill their waterskins or spend the night before continuing north or south along the road.
It should be noted that Bethlehem did not appear on maps of the Holy Land until the Roman Empire declared Christianity to be the official religion, i.e. until the establishment of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th century.
The Feast of Mar Elias is observed on August 2nd each year, when Christian Jerusalemites and Bethlehemites congregate in the stone church to commemorate the martyrdom of Mar Elias.
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