Beit Jimal Monastery
Beit Jimal - general view
Beit Jimal (or Beit Jamal; Hebrew: בית ג'מאל; Arabic: بيت جمال / الحكمه) is a Catholic monastery, run by Salesian monks. The property was purchased in 1878 by Fr Antonio Belloni, who set up the Beit Gemal School of Agriculture for the benefit of poor youth, especially orphans. The Salesians took over the institution in 1892, after Fr Belloni joined them together with some other priests. The monastery is located in the Judean hills next to the city of Beit Shemesh. There are actually two separate monasteries, one for men and a second for women, as well as a small and well-appointed church, called St. Stephen, built in 1930 on the ruins of a 5th-century Byzantine church discovered on the site. The monastery has a small shop that offers locally made olive oil and red wines. There is a small concert hall, where concerts are played on some weekends. The nuns do not belong to Salesian Sisters, but rather to the Sisters of Bethlehem, part of the Sisters of the Assumption of the Virgin and the Sisters of Saint Bruno. These nuns have taken a vow of silence.
In Arabic and Hebrew the site is known as Beit Jamal – the monastery is sometimes referenced as Beit Gemal or Beit Jimal. The name of the site is said to be from its local name (in years past), Kfar Gamla, purportedly so named for Rabban Gamliel I, or Gamaliel in Greek – president of the Sanhedrin. The Christian tradition believes that Gamaliel was buried here, as were St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr and Nicodemus. In 415 their remains were disclosed in a dream and discovered by the priest Lucian, and removed at the orders of John, Bishop of Jerusalem, for depositing in the Church of Hagia Sion on Mt. Zion, at the site of today's Abbey of the Dormition. Thanks to the excavations carried out by Andrzej Strus on site, it is now largely accepted that in Byzantine times this was considered to be the burial site of St Stephen, Gamaliel, Nicodemus and Gamaliel's son Abibos. In 2003, near a circular structure uncovered by Strus, was found a stone architrave or lintel with a tabula ansata. The writing on it was eventually deciphered by Emile Puech, expert in ancient writing from the Ecole Biblique. The writing ran: "DIAKONIKON STEPHANOU PROTOMARTYROS", "the diakonikon of Stephen the Protomartyr". A diakonikon of a Byzantine church was one of the two spaces or chapels flanking the sanctuary, which often housed holy relics. This is therefore solid evidence for identifying Bet Gemal with the ancient Kfar Gamla, the traditional burial site of St Stephen. 
Israel's first meteorological station was created in Beit Jimal in 1919 and is still in operation today.
- Don Bosco in Terra Santa / en Terre Sainte / in the Holy Land 1891-1991. Centenario dell'arrivo dei Salesiani e delle Figlie di Maria Ausiliatrice in Terra Santa (Jerusalem, 1991), 106.
- Antonio Scudu, Santo Stefano: primo martire cristiano: morire perdonando (booklet published by Salesiani Don Bosco, Bet Gemal, 2007) 6. (Earlier published in the magazine Maria Ausiliatrice (Turin), December 2006).
- Scudu 8-9. A. Strus, "Beit-Gemal puo' essere il luogo di sepoltura di Santo Stefano?" Salesianum 54 (1992) 1-26. A. Strus, Bet Gemal: Pathway to the tradition of Saints Stephen and Gamaliel, (Rome, 2000). A. Strus, Khirbet Fattir - Bet Gemal. Two Ancient Jewish and Christian Sites in Israel (Rome: LAS, 2003. A. Strus, "Bet Gemal and the Byzantine Tradition regarding St Stephen," Ecce ascendimus Jerosolymam (Lc 18, 31), ed. F. Mosetto (Rome: LAS, 2003) 399-418. Edgar Krentz, Review of Khirbet Fattir—Bet Gemal: Two Ancient Jewish and Christian Sites in Israel by Andrzej Strus, Journal of Near Eastern Studies 66/3 (July 2007) 234.
- Emile Puech, "Un mausolée de saint Etienne à Khirbet Jiljil - Beit Gimal (Pl. I)", Revue Biblique 113/1 (January 2006) 100-126.
- Scudu 9.