If you ask the right person you will discover why this block of limestone is sitting in the sanctuary of the Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary in Beit Jala, Palestine (see previous posts here and here).
I asked. Now I know. And I also understand why there is a framed image above it.
According to Matthew 2 (see a bit of it here), the Holy Family fled Judea shortly after Jesus was born. The reason? Wicked King Herod tolerated no contenders for his throne. When he heard that another "king" had been born, he sought to kill the Christ child.
Joseph, Mary, and Jesus became refugees.
Their flight to Egypt is often pictured in medieval art, and the notion that Mary had to rest mid-flight is a developed theme (while hardly medieval, my favorite depiction of it is here). The more traditional image in the frame above shows the three (plus a donkey) in motion.
The block of limestone in the Orthodox sanctuary is honored as one of the places where Mary rested. It is oddly cut, don't you agree? It doesn't look too comfortable! I wonder what its original function was?
While irrelevant, I'll throw this in the mix: Beit Jala is also well-known for its skilled stone masons.
Dr. Mark Ziese, Dean of the School of Bible and Theology at Johnson University, manages the website Bible Land Explorer and teaches regularly in the Biblical heartland. You are invited to join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean Cruise aboard the Celebrity Reflection in October, 2018. Onboard lectures will focus on Paul's fourth missionary journey. See the link here for details.