Tag Archives: Jerusalem

Palestinians still protesting Greek control of their Church

11 Sep

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Palestinians demand removal of church patriarch

Protesters are demanding the removal of Patriarch Theophilos III over his involvement in selling church land.

The controversial deal between the church and Ataret Cohanim was made in 2004 and came to light a year later [Al Jazeera]

Hundreds of Palestinians rallied on Saturday in occupied East Jerusalem against the selling of church property to Jewish settlers.

Protesters demanded the removal of Patriarch Theophilos III over his involvement in selling church land and called for an end to Greek dominance over their church.

They held up signs reading: “We demand the freedom of the Orthodox Church from Theophilos and from corruption” and “Church land belongs to the church and its congregants – not to Theophilos and his gang.”

Demonstrators also chanted: “Theophilos, you collaborator. Our land is not for sale” and “We want national unity, to free the Patriarchate.”

Signs read: ‘The Orthodox endowments are for the sect and not for Theophilos’ and ‘Our endowments are our past, future and present’ [Al Jazeera]

“The people are demanding unity, transparency, and not to Arabise the church, because the church is already Arab Palestinian,” Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List in Israel’s parliament, said in a statement at the protest.

“In the 21st century, we are here are to ensure that this a national cause. We are here to say there are those who aim to transform the conflict from a national one to a religious one. This is a conflict between illegal occupation and between the people of Jerusalem – Christians and Muslims,” Odeh added.

“There is no excuse for the selling [of] any piece of land. This land is for our people. They succeed by dividing us, or bribing us. I ask you all to sit together to form unity and to pinpoint our demands and to foster unity to succeed in this just cause.”

The rally comes amid fears in the Palestinian Christian community that Israel is attempting to “weaken the Christian presence” in the country.


READ MORE: How Israel is targeting Palestinian institutions


In a joint statement released this month, patriarchs and church leaders in Jerusalem expressed their concern over what they termed “breaches of the status quo that governs holy sites and ensures the rights and privileges of churches”.

The statement condemned a recent Israeli court ruling over the selling of two strategically located hotels near Jaffa Gate in the Old City and a large building in the Muslim Quarter to the Israeli Jewish settler group, Ateret Cohanim, which aims to expand the Jewish presence in the occupied city. The court approved the sale in early August, giving Ateret Cohanim rights over the property for a period of 99 years.

“The judgement in the ‘Jaffa Gate’ case … which we regard as unjust, as well as [a] proposed bill in the Knesset which is politically motivated that would restrict the rights of the Churches over our own property, are further assaults on the rights that the status quo has always guaranteed,” the statement noted.

The patriarchs and church leaders also vowed to support a high court appeal against the judgement and called on fellow church leaders around the world to stop further attempts to change the status quo.

The church has vowed to appeal the Israeli court’s decision [Al Jazeera]

The Greek Orthodox Church is the second-largest owner of land in the country. The controversial deal between the church and Ateret Cohanim was made in 2004 and came to light a year later.

Although the deal was initiated by Theophilos III’s predecessor, Irenaios, who was deposed from his position for his actions, activists and residents believe Theophilos III was responsible for concluding the deal with the settler organisation.

“The Patriarch will continue to use bribes. We will not allow these bribes to continue. This church is an Arab church and its administration should be Arab. The Patriarch must be an Arab – whether Palestinian or Jordanian. We will not accept anything else,” Alif al-Sabbagh, a member of the Arab Central Orthodox Council in Palestine and Jordan, told Al Jazeera at the protest.

 

Are Palestinian Christians really your problem, Israel?

3 Apr

Stuck between a f*ckin’ rock and a f*ckin’ hard place.  Not much more different than most eastern Christians…  For a good — what is it? — 1,435? 1,436? years now…

From Al Jazeera.

Palestinians warn Israel over Easter restrictions

After annual difficulty accessing religious sites, Palestinians vow to pursue ‘other means’ if restrictions continue.

Palestinians
The traditional Washing of the Feet at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem during Holy Week is a yearly Easter ritual [Reuters] – (click)

Jerusalem – Palestinian Christians said they would not tolerate a repetition of the Israeli restrictions to and violence which have in past years marred Holy Week festivities – culminating on Easter Sunday – and have vowed to pursue ‘other means’ if no marked changes are made.

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, community leaders expressed concerns that Israeli restrictions will prevent them from celebrating Easter this week, beginning with the Good Friday procession in Jerusalem, where thousands flock to walk along Via Dolorosa – the path believed to have been walked by Jesus before his crucifixion.

“There is one major change this year, and this is April 1, which is the day Palestine officially becomes a member of the International Criminal Court,” said Bassem Khoury, an Orthodox Christian from Jerusalem, and former Palestinian minister of economy. “Denial of freedom of religion is…an issue we will pursue if we are denied [access to our holy sites].”

For almost a decade, the Easter celebrations have been marked with clashes between local Christians and Israeli troops, who regularly prevent worshippers from accessing the religious sites.

“Since 2005, Israel has closed the Old City of Jerusalem for us,” said Hind Khoury, former Palestinian minister of Jerusalem affairs. “We arrive to celebrate Palm Sunday and Holy Friday only to find the access doors closed and many Israeli military checkpoints along the way.”

This Friday, pilgrims and visitors will walk down the cobbled Via Dolorosa through the walled Old City, many bearing wooden crosses, to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where tradition has it Jesus was buried before rising again three days later.

Restrictions

This year, Easter festivities are coinciding with the Jewish holiday of Passover. Israeli authorities impose severe restrictions on Palestinians’ movement during that time, affecting both Muslim and Christians’ access to Jerusalem holy sites.

“Israeli authorities give some permits to Christians during religious holidays,” said Fr. Jamal Khader, the rector of the Latin Patriarchate Seminary, who described himself as one of the ‘lucky ones’ to have received permission to enter Jerusalem this Easter time.

“But at the same time, the access to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is restricted and during Pesach [Passover] there are even more restrictions,” he said. “Permits are a means of control and this is a violation of our freedom of worship.”

Khader said that families from his parish often complain that permits are not given to the entire household, which often means having to drop plans to attend the Jerusalem festivities. Even those with permits cannot always take part in the processions because the Old City is “practically closed”, he said.

“Every year when we get here for the procession, we notice that the whole area is empty except for hundreds of soldiers and policemen,” he said. “This is a real problem for regular people; it dissuades them from participating.”

Dwindling numbers

Difficulties in reaching holy sites come at a time when Christian leaders concede that the community’s numbers are in decline. In 1944, there were some 30,000 Christians living in Jerusalem’s Old City, according to official figures. Today that number does not exceed 11,000.

Many Palestinian Christians have complained in the past that they were beaten, shoved and prevented by Israeli forces from entering the Old City during religious holidays. Israeli authorities said they were merely using ‘crowd-control measures’ because of the large number of visitors. This year, the Israeli tourism ministry said it is expecting about 13,000 over the period of Holy Week and Passover.

“We are not happy with the measures by [the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem],” said Archbishop Fouad Twal, the Latin patriarch. “We are afraid of a repetition of last year[‘s events]. Sometimes I wonder whether the [Israeli] policemen know why they are there – to help or to make our lives more difficult.”

Last year, the UN’s peace envoy to the Middle East at the time and other high-ranking diplomats were prevented from going through a barricade to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for the ‘Holy Fire’ procession – a traditional ceremony that takes place a day before Orthodox Easter.Robert Serry said Israeli police forbade him and Italian, Norwegian and Dutch diplomats from getting to the church as he was being crushed by a waiting crowd at a barricade. They also ignored his requests to speak to a superior, he said.

At the time, Serry called their behaviour “unacceptable” and demanded in a statement that all parties “respect the right of religious freedom”. Israeli authorities denied Serry’s charges, saying he had displayed “a serious problem of judgment”.

Last year, Palestinian Christian communities turned to Israel’s supreme court, which agreed that Palestinians’ rights were being violated, and that checkpoints and other restrictions were hindering access to places of worship.

‘Unhindered access’

This year, they received official Israeli assurances of unhindered access to the church. “I’m not 100 percent optimistic that things will go fine even though we have assurances from Israeli security, even the president himself,” Bassem Khoury said.

But some Christians fear that it’s not only access to their holy sites that’s being lost in these festivities: participating in celebrations that extend beyond the religious. Ra’ed Sa’adeh, who owns and manages the Jerusalem Hotel, said he grew up in the Old City and took part in Holy Week celebrations yearly.

“Many of the activities have both religious and cultural [significance],” Sa’adeh said. “And as Christians, we are being deprived from exercising our culture. Now it’s impossible to be part of the popular celebrations, which are the natural cultural expression that people have been a part of for hundreds of years.”

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Jerusalem: “…if he cannot control her, he would rather see her dead.”

3 Jan

 

ISRAEL-superJumboJerusalem’s light rail trams, once a haven of normality, have come under attack in recent months. Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times  (double click)

A line from an op=ed piece by

“Yet, with all their talk of Jerusalem’s indivisibility, neither side has a plan to enable everyone to live functional, productive lives here.

“Both sides profess their love for this city, but they love it as a violently jealous man loves a woman: If he cannot control her, he would rather see her dead.”

It says it all, and lends itself to a powerful explanation of why the fiercest nationalist is usually a male.  If I can’t have her, who cares.  Better yet, kill her, Stella-style.  This is what Venizelos was thinking when he embarked on his pipe-dream in 1919; this is what he though at Lausanne when agreeing to the Population Exchange — he had already run through several population exchange scenarios in his head with which he might seduce the Allies and bring himself glory; 1923 wasn’t the first time he had expressed such ideas.

This what Milošević was feeling when he abandoned Krajina’s Serbs to their fate and then again when he sealed the fate of Kosovar Serbs by thinking he would expel its 90% Albanian population.

This is what that other raging ego-maniac Jinnah was thinking when he convinced people to cut the heart out of Muslim India and create two dysfunctional wing statelets, one of which barely survives in horrible destitution, the other ruled by a series of some of the most hideous, corrupt, mendacious regimes in the world (see October 6: “It’s not even a country; it’s a fuckin’ acronym!”)

This is what the Messenger thinks when he starts shrieking from his Mussolini balcony: “And I don’t give a shit about Anatolian Hellenism or Politikes Kouzines or Loxandres!!! [.] I care about what’s good for Greece!!!”  Or when he stands ten kilometers from my father’s village “…where my ancestors held on tooth and nail to their land, their religion, their language, for centuries – as every other people have the right to — looks out over the valley of Dropoli and thinks out loud: “These borders could have been drawn to better advantage for us. All that was necessary would’ve been a few key population exchanges…”

The weird “contentlessness of nationalism” as I’ve said many times before.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  Or what it becomes.  It just has to be mine.  Or set a match to it.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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