Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre has an inspiring story of coexistence

church-of-the-holy-sepulchre-700xThe Church of Holy Sepulchre, also known as the Church of Resurrection (كنيسة القيامة) in Arabic, is of the holiest sites revered by Christians the world over.

Located in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, it is where followers of the faith believe Jesus Christ was crucified, entombed, and resurrected.

The historical Church has undergone some mass restoration works, and after months of waiting, the holy site was re-opened once again in March 2017. The last time it had had any work done was some 200 years ago.

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The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is one of the oldest churches in the Middle East, dating back to 335 A.D.. Scores of pilgrims from all-over the globe visit the revered church annually.

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For the past 800 years, two families have been opening and closing the door of the holy site. After Muslim leader Saladin’s conquest of Jerusalem in 1187, a disagreement erupted between the different Christian denominations about who should open and close the gate of the Holy Sepulchre. As a result, a deal with the Christian sects was brokered and two Muslim families were entrusted to be the neutral guardians of the holy site to prevent further dispute.

FULL ARTICLE FROM STEPFEED

A Christian Human Rights Monitor Describes the Horrific Realities of Life Under Israeli Occupation

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“Don’t they treat us like animals?”

It’s a hot friday morning, in the third week of Ramadan, and we’re at Qalandiya checkpoint, monitoring access for Palestinian women, children, and the elderly (including men over 45) who are traveling to Jerusalem for Friday prayers at al-Aqsa.

It is for one day only, and men under 45 are not allowed through, because the Israeli authorities have identified them a “security risk.”

“We just want to pray,” a Palestinian man exclaims, as he tries to argue with the soldiers.  “How are we a security risk for wanting to pray in al-Aqsa? You can check me! I’m carrying nothing!”

Men under 45 are not allowed through, because the Israeli authorities have identified them a “security risk.”  “We just want to pray,” a Palestinian man exclaims, as he tries to argue with the soldiers.  “How are we a security risk for wanting to pray in al-Aqsa? You can check me! I’m carrying nothing!”

I’m here with a Christian program, monitoring occupation related human rights abuses in the West Bank, and three times a week, we monitor the access—or lack thereof—through Qalandiya checkpoint.

Outside of the men’s entry to the checkpoint, many men under 45 are gathered.  Some try and pass through, even though they know that they will be rejected.

At first I ask the men coming back why they have been rejected, but after a few hours I’ve moved on to asking how many times they’ve tried to pass through.  “Ten times now,” says one man, smiling broadly.  I am encouraged by him; I see it as a peaceful kind of resistance, to attempt to do something which should be your right, despite knowing you won’t be allowed to.

At first I ask the men coming back why they have been rejected, but after a few hours I’ve moved on to asking how many times they’ve tried to pass through.  “Ten times now,” says one man, smiling broadly.  I am encouraged by him; I see it as a peaceful kind of resistance, to attempt to do something which should be your right, despite knowing you won’t be allowed to.

As soon as someone nearby hears that I, despite my Scandinavian features and big blonde hair, speak Arabic, a big group of teenage boys bombard me with questions. Two topics are reoccurring:  Whether or not I am fasting, and if I think what I see happening is right.

Do you fast, they ask me. No, I’m a Christian we fast in or before Easter, I tell them. Is this right what you see here, they ask me. Every time I answer the same way:  No, of course this is not right. How can you put an age limit on the right to pray?

A relationship with God is an undeniable, inalienable human right.  Praying is an undeniable, inalienable human right.

A relationship with God is an undeniable, inalienable human right. Praying is an undeniable, inalienable human right.   

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

How a Gaza Christian became a blind Muslim’s eyes

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The man constantly checked his watch as he stood at the entrance to the Borno Mosque in the center of Gaza City. Anyone coming across him couldn’t help but wonder why he wasn’t praying inside with the others. Why did he keep checking his watch? For whom or what was he waiting? Then a man wearing dark glasses exited the mosque. The man at the door guided him and helped him put on his shoes. Al-Monitor asked after the two men and found that the one by the door is a Christian who regularly waits there to assist his blind Muslim friend.

Kamal Tarzi, 55, known as Abu Elias, has stuck by his Muslim friend, the 45-year-old pharmacist Hatem Khreis since Khreis lost his sight preparing a prescription five years ago. Tarzi says he is Khreis’ best friend and eyes.

“Hatem and I have been friends for 15 years, and we have been through joy and pain,” Tarzi told Al-Monitor. “I always accompany him, and people are shocked when they learn that I am Christian and that he is Muslim, given the depth of our relationship.”

Tarzi explained how he came to escort his friend: “After my friend lost his sight, his life turned upside down. He went from preparing medical prescriptions for patients to relying on people’s help to be able to live his daily life and take his own medicine.

“Growing up, Hatem would always perform prayers at the mosque, but after the incident five years ago, he was no longer able to do so because there was no one available to guide him there. I saw how he would shed tears whenever the call to prayer would come from the mosque. That is why I decided to take him to the mosque to pray as he did in the past.

“The first day I helped him get to the mosque, four years ago, he was so happy. So I told him I would be taking him every day to perform all the prayers. He was thrilled to hear my decision. It was as if he had found something he had lost for a long time.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL MONITOR 

Can Israelis And Palestinians Change Their Minds?

mind changeNote:  Although not directly addressing the thematic content of this page, this article speaks to an issue that also lies at the heart of interfaith dialogue – are we able to change our minds about “the other.”  Read it with that in mind. 

What makes people change their minds? About the really hard stuff.

Covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the past three years, I’ve often wondered if people here ever do.

This conflict is frequently described as “intractable,” with neither side willing to give up their historical perspective or their entrenched positions to end it. And it does not take many interviews to hear repetitions of the same sweeping narrative repeated on each side. Palestinians from different places cite the same historical events to back their views. Israelis who have never met each other use similar turns of phrase.

“People have a lot of [psychological] resources invested in what they believe about the conflict,” says Thomas Zeitzoff, a political scientist at American University in Washington, D.C., who has researched Israeli and Palestinian attitudes.

He says the high political stakes and emotional involvement make it hard for Israelis and Palestinians to change their minds.

But there have been certain shifts – in public opinion and in individual beliefs – during the 68 years of Israel’s existence and almost half-century of the Israeli military control over Palestinian territories.

Why? Experts list a range of influences that – to varying degrees – can move or even flip deeply held views.

“You can point to major events, either in the world or people’s lives, changes in their social context, as well as changes in the kind of messages they get from politicians and other elite sources,” says Brendan Nyhan, an assistant professor at Dartmouth College who researches politics and misperceptions.

Other factors include repeated exposure to a new idea, whatever the source, scientific research, and direct personal experience.

Four people – two Israeli and two Palestinian – told me their stories of personal, radical belief change related to the conflict. They not only changed their minds, but, a higher hurdle, their behavior.

Here are some triggers that led these people to see the world differently than they had before, even in the midst of a larger impasse.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NPR