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 

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 

 

 

Thousands of Christians in Israel hold protest rally outside burned Galilee church

church-of-the-multiplicationThousands of Christians have held a protest rally in the Galilee, near the historic church in northern Israel that was seriously damaged after a suspected arson attack which included anti-Christian sentiment scrawled in Hebrew on a wall.

The Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha was set on fire early on June 17 and the suspected hate crime drew fierce condemnation from Israeli leaders from major political parties, The Times of Israel reported.

Inside the church former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah and Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, auxiliary of the Latin Patriarchate, celebrated a Sunday Mass attended by hundreds of young people on June 18.

Many carried crosses and waved Vatican flags and Jewish, Muslim and Druze clerics came the church to express support, The Catholic Herald reported.

The church is run by the Catholic Benedictine Order and is known for its fifth-century mosaics, including one depicting two fish flanking a basket of loaves.

“The attack on the church is an attack on all those who believe in a civilization of love and coexistence,” said Father Gregory Collins, the head of the Order of Saint Benedict in Israel, to protestors.

In an entrance corridor of the building, believed by Christians to be the site of Jesus’s miracle described in the Bible of multiplying two fish and five loaves to feed 5,000 people, Hebrew graffiti was found.

It read, “The false gods will be eliminated,” The Times of Israel reported saying it is a quote from Jewish liturgy.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ECUMENICAL NEWS 

‘We Palestinian Christians say Allahu Akbar’

palestine_pop.siThe only Palestinian Orthodox Christian bishop in the Holy Land speaking about the suffering of Palestinian Christians, their unity with Muslims in the Palestinian struggle, about Orthodox Christian martyrs, and Ukraine.

Archbishop Sebastia Theodosios (Atallah Hanna), 49, is the only Orthodox Christian archbishop from Palestine stationed in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, while all other bishops of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem are Greeks. The Israeli authorities had detained him several times, or stopped him at the border, and taken away his passport. Among all Jerusalem clergymen he is the only one who has no privilege of passing through the VIP gate in the airport – because of his nationality. “For the Israeli authorities, I am not a bishop, but rather a Palestinian,” explains his Beatitude. When talking on the phone he says a lot of words you would normally hear from a Muslim: “Alhamdulillah, Insha’Allah, Masha’Allah”. He speaks Arabic, and the Arabic for ‘god’ is Allah, whether you are a Christian or a Muslim.

Your Beatitude, what’s it like being the Palestinian bishop in the Holy Land?

Firstly, I’d like to confirm that I am the only Palestinian bishop in the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. A fellow bishop is serving in the city of Irbid in the north of Jordan; and there are also several Palestinian priests.

I take pride in belonging to this great religious institution that’s over 2,000 years old.

My church has been protecting the Christian presence in the Holy Land and the sacred items related to the life of Christ and Christian Church history.

I am proud of my religion and nationality, I am proud to belong to my fatherland. I am a Palestinian, and I belong to this religious people who are fighting for the sake of their freedom and dignity to implement their dreams and national rights.

I support Palestinians and share their cause and their issues. We the Palestinian Orthodox Christians are not detached from their hardships.

The Palestinian issue is a problem that concerns all of us, Christians and Muslims alike. It’s a problem of every free intellectual individual aspiring for justice and freedom in this world.

We the Palestinian Christians suffer along with the rest of Palestinians from occupation and hardships of our economic situation. Muslims and Christians suffer equally, as there is no difference in suffering for any of us. We are all living in the same complicated circumstances, and overcoming the same difficulties.

As a church and as individuals we protect this people, and we hope a day will come when Palestinians get their freedom and dignity.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RT.COM

Attacks on Al Aqsa compound proof Israel not interested in peace

382333_Al-Aqsa-Mosque(CHICAGO 10/13/2014) – The American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) is outraged that Israeli forces today fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinians inside Al Aqsa mosque, disrupting the holy site’s sanctity and safety. The Palestinians were taking refuge from aggressive Israeli settlers, who, with increasing frequency, have been harassing Palestinian worshipers at Islam’s holiest site in Palestine and third holiest place overall.

After dawn prayer today, extreme right settler groups, protected by Israeli soldiers and police, entered the Al Aqsa mosque compound for the second time in less than one week. At the same time, most Palestinian men under 50 and nearly all women were banned from offering prayers in the mosque, in contravention of international law.

Israeli attacks against Al Aqsa are not new. For instance, in 1967, immediately after the end of the Six Day War, “the Israeli army chief rabbi, General Shlomo Goren, tried to convince a commander of the conquering forces, Uzi Narkis, to blow up the mosque ‘once and for all,’” according to published historical accounts.

What’s changed is the frequency of settler incursions into the Muslim holy site, coupled with discussions in the Israeli Knesset about dividing Al Aqsa in the manner of the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron, which apportioned two-thirds of the mosque for Jews, prohibiting the area to Palestinians. The Jerusalem Municipality also is discussing plans to turn the courtyard area between the Dome of the Rock mosque and Al Aqsa into a public park. Israeli authorities already have given the extremist settler group Elad the right to create an oversized ‘visitor center’ that will abut the mosque compound, further cutting off Palestinians from their historical religious site. UNESCO is so concerned about recent ‘Judaization’ developments in Jerusalem it dispatched a fact-finding committee to study the issue in April.

All these actions come at a time when Israeli settlers have forcibly moved into Palestinian homes and the creation of new settlements in East Jerusalem are planned.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AMERICAN MUSLIMS FOR PALESTINE 

Catholic leaders in Israel call for crackdown on attacks targeting Christian, Muslim property

Nic6318744-11095 (1)JERUSALEM — Catholic leaders in Jerusalem are increasingly concerned that an apparent uptick in nationalistic hate crimes by Jewish extremists against Christians and Muslims could mar the upcoming visit of Pope Francis.

On Friday, for the second time this week, anti-Christian graffiti was discovered on a church in Jerusalem. It follows a similar incident Monday at the Notre Dame Center, a complex in Jerusalem owned by the Vatican. The defacements come after more than 20 major hate crimes in the past few months have targeted Christian and Muslim communities here.

While such crimes are not unusual — a monitoring group found that 32 religious buildings have been vandalized or subjected to arson attempts in the past four years — the frequency of such incidents appears to have increased in recent weeks.

When they first started in 2011, these so-called “price tag” attacks were part of a campaign to extract retribution for actions against Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The idea was that anytime the Israeli army removed an illegal outpost or Palestinian militants attacked settlers, somebody would pay a price. Today, these attacks have spread into Israel proper and don’t always follow actions against Jewish settlements.

“We are very concerned about the repeated acts of hatred against Christians by the price-tag groups,” the Rev. Jamal Khader, rector of Latin Patriarchate Seminary, said Friday.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASINGTON POST