Holylander's Blog

Reflections of a Holylander

The lost tribes

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February 2014
Peter Abu Shanab

The establishment of the state of Israel is centered on an ancestral claim that the land is holy only to one people, namely the Hebrews – as opposed to Arabs (be they Muslim or Christian). This claim has been the catalyst for the continued state of conflict between these two peoples.
The Israeli Palestinian “conflict” is now being redefined by the Israeli government bill last week, distinguishing between Christian and Muslim Arabs, both of whom are Palestinians. This bill comes after a law of citizenship stating that Gentiles or non-Jews have to swear loyalty to the Jewish state. These policies of divide and rule toward the Palestinians, are an attempt to dismantle their collective identity and are adding a religious as well as a racist dimension to the political conflict. Over the previous eras of history, religions were not the same as nationalities. One’s nation is comprised of one’s country and one’s past, present and future history, heritage and civilization.
‘Jerushalaim’, as it is known in Hebrew, or ‘Al Quds’ in Arabic, refers to the place of the Holy One. Therefore Jerusalem is the holy city for the Arabs and the Hebrews alike and consequently divided among three religious communities – Jewish, Christian and Muslim. It is not necessary for a Muslim to be an Arab, or for a Christian to be a Hebrew. Arab Christians and Hebrew Christians were worshiping the Holy One even before the advent of Islam.
The two state solution is breathing its last. The area of the ‘Jewish’ state of Israel is 20,077 sq.km of the Holyland, while the remaining 7.245 sq. km is the area of ‘Gentile’ Palestine. The Green Line which was accepted as the borders between Israel and Palestine is no longer relevant. The added religious aspect of the conflict has now divided the country into three sub-tribes: a) Jews, b) Christians, c) Muslims. However, if one considers the aspect of ethnicity, the division would be a) Hebrew, (Jew) b) Arab, (Gentile); and with the addition of the political aspect the division would be a)Israeli, b) Palestinian.
The number of tribes of the above divisions, accommodating all the sub-groups, would be twelve tribes. Namely 1) Jew Hebrew Israeli, 2) Jew Arab Israeli, 3) Jew Hebrew Palestinian, 4) Jew Arab Palestinian, 5) Christian Hebrew Israeli, 6) Christian Arab Palestinian, 7) Christian Arab Israeli, 8) Christian Hebrew Palestinian, 9) Muslim Hebrew Israeli, 10) Muslim Hebrew Palestinian, 11) Muslim Arab Isreali and 12) Muslim Arab Palestinian.
Thus, an alternative solution to the conflict could be a one state solution based on twelve republics divided among the twelve tribes. Hebrew and/or Arabic will be official languages of this state. An elected council from each tribe acting as a republic will be part of the federal state with the holy city of Jerusalem as its capital. A representative of each republic will act as a member of the council of twelve, headed by an elected mayor responsible for local city governance. The flag of the rainbow, the sign of the promise of God given to our ancestor Noah, could represent the colors of the federal state and serve as a symbol of hope for a future yet to be seen.


Written by Petros Ibn El Roumieh

February 25, 2014 at 7:24 pm

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My Neighbour – Israel

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Mathew 5:43 “Ye have heard that it hath been said, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy.’44 But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you,



A sign at the entrance to Taybeh, Palestine.[i]

The origin of the name Palestine is said to come from the Philistine tribes fighting the Hebrew tribes for dominance to the land they both call holy 1Sam.13. It is the Greek name given by Alexander the Great to the province incorporating the kingdom of Israel and Judea. Palestis in Greek means a fighter, and so does Israel in Hebrew.  Both were immigrants into the land for whose possession they fought through centuries and up to this day. Both absorbed the populations they found upon it. Both succeeded the Canaanite civilization, and came under the fascination of the Canaanite religion. Both fought together foreign invaders. Both were victims of Divine Judgment. Both were at different times victorious that one might have swallowed the other. So fully was the Philistine identified with the land where the seed of our grandfather Abraham was planted and where its fruits are found to this day, that Falastine became its Arabic name – a distinction Israel never reached until last century with the creation of the state of Israel.

Today’s Palestinians are the descendants of indigenous tribes who settled the Holy Land. They are not a pure race for they are the result of intermarriages among many peoples. What joins them is the love for the land of their ancestors who fought great Empires to keep alive the spirit of an omnipotent and righteous providence, and kept the law of the Lord. Palestinian heritage and culture is the result of the accumulative history of the land dating back 10,000 years. Many Palestinians’ customs are adaptations of the Hebrew, Greek and Arabic culture.

The difference of these two peoples, whose destinies were so similar, was overwhelmed by the streams of Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Greek, Roman and Arabic cultures. It is the spirit of this Holy Land that survived in its people to this day. It is an ideal prophets and saints identified with the highest ends of righteousness, wisdom, and service to mankind. It is in Palestine that Christianity rose against pagan Hellenism, proud of its recent victories over the Jews. Simple monks organized by many Bishops gained the first victories for Christ over paganism and converted country people armed only with the Spirit of the land. It is the spirit of the resurrection of the Christ in Jerusalem which brought the Palestinian nation to life.

I feel blessed being born in Haret El Nasara, the Christian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. Nasara in Arabic or the Nutzrim in Hebrew is a spiritual identity referring to the first converts to Christianity being Jews, Samaritans, Greeks or Arabs Acts 2:11, known today as Palestinian Christians. My family is member of the Church of St. Jacob and St. Peter, the brothers of Jesus, established by the apostles at Pentecost and affiliated with Greek Orthodoxy since the fourth century. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is venerated as the mother of the Palestinian nation, and her son Jesus was accepted as the Christ of the Nazarenes, who are the forerunners of Palestinian nationalism that, with time, replaced Jewish nationalism.

I was born before Israel’s occupation of the rest of Palestine in 1967. My nationality is listed as Jordanian in my Israeli travel document. This document does not qualify me to be a citizen but rather a resident of the city of my ancestors. In 1967, Israel expanded the city limits of Jerusalem to include its eastern part, which it annexed. East Jerusalemites were given permanent residency status but are not citizens. They can participate in local elections but not national elections, and face the constant threat of losing their residency rights if they cant prove that the city is their “center of life” to Israeli authorities. East Jerusalemites today are not citizens neither of Israel, Palestine or Jordan. We are stateless.

Palestinians are being labeled as a demographic threat to the Jewish state. Many methods are being used toJudaize” the land by increasing the number of Jews while decreasing the number of Palestinians and altering the religious composition of Jerusalem. Those methods include: revoking residency rights and social benefits of Palestinians; encouraging Jewish settlement in historically Palestinian-Arab areas; discriminating against Palestinian neighborhoods in municipal planning and in the allocation of services and building permits; and destroying Palestinian homes and structures built without Israeli building permissions which are almost impossible to obtain by Palestinians.  Unfortunately, killing your neighbor, destroying his house, depriving his ill from medical care and denying him the right to reach his holy sites has become the norm in the Jewish state of Israel.

Yet as a Palestinian, who lives in the same city as an Israeli but on “the other side”, I was brought up with the Bible stories, the stories of my ancestor’s encounters with the living God. I was taught to love not only my neighbor but as well my enemy. I do not hate Israelis, for I have many friends among them, but I hate the actions of the state of Israel done to my people, which celebrate its independence day but deny our Nakba, catastrophe, when almost half the Palestinian population became refugees. Among the refugees were my Grandparents’ who left their house in West Jerusalem with all their belonging and were not allowed to return to after that day.

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel is no longer the God for the Jewish people, but the God of all peoples – including my own. The children of Abraham as was understood in the Old Testament to mean literal decent gained a new meaning Act 10:45. God’s promise was to the children of Abraham through faith in Him. Both Palestinians, spiritual Israel, and Jews, literal Israel share the same love for this land and will come to the realization that they can live peacefully as good neighbors once they agree to share this land as cousins or even brothers.

Easter 2013

Chrst is risen, truly risen.

Peter Abu Shanab                                                                                                                               

Chairperson Holylanders for the preservation of Christian Heritage

[i]  Taybeh’s history is a microcosm of the history of Palestine. It was known as Ophra during the Canaanite period, as Apherema and as Ephron during the Hebrew period, as Ephraim, the last retreat place of Jesus before His resurrection during the Roman period Jn 11:54.  Its present Arabic name is said to have been given by Salaheddin. Taybeh today is not only Palestinian but also Christian and famous for its ‘Oktoberfest and Palestinian Beer’.

Written by Petros Ibn El Roumieh

June 4, 2013 at 1:08 pm

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If your opponent is the Judge, who do you turn to?

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Petros Ibn El Roumieh
September 2011

After graduating from Greece in 1980, I was employed as an assistant Architect of the Holy Sepulchre by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Diodoros I. Metropolitan Timothy was the private secretary of the Patriarch and also my contact to the Patriarch. He, as well as the brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre, were my “brothers”. I spoke their language and many who did not know me thought that I was Greek. I shared their grievances as well as their feasts – after all I am ‘Roum’ Greek Orthodox.                                                                                                                                                                      In 1992 I rented a space in the old city on which I built a small house which I used as my office. I requested the acting head of properties, Bishop Damaskinos, to be given a protected lease for my investment. I can still hear his answer ” Who do you need protection from?” I knew the Patriarchate inside out as I was involved in many of its renovation projects. It is the ‘home of the brotherhood’. Patriarch Diodoros gave me permission to design a community compound and acquire a planning permission for 27 dunums in Bir Nabala, East Jerusalem, belonging to the Patriarchate. Until his death I was an architect of the Patriarchate.
During the election period for a new Patriarch, I spoke my mind in support of Metroplitan Timothy as the better candidate. After all, I had a letter in which he supported the realization of the above project, if  he will be elected as Patriarch of the Holy City, the elected Patriarch, Eirineous I, refused to continue with the project. I was to pay the price for making my preference heard and was no longer architect of the Patriarchate. I did, however, remain in the office which I had built on the land I had rented from the Patriarchate since 1994.
Shortly after, Bishop Attallah Hanna who had voiced his opposition to the actions of the Patriarch Eirineous was driven out of his office. I, as chairman of Holylanders, offered him the office which he occupied until the dethronement of Patriarch Eirineous by the community as well as the brotherhood.
During the time of new elections to replace Eirineous, I again made my choice known: Metropolitan Timothy was my choice as the suitable candidate, Patriarch Theophios III was elected. Bishop Theodosios Atallah Hanna was given an office back in the Patriarchate and vacated my office and the offices of Holylanders . Holylanders approached the Patriarch with the offer to cooperate in the realization of the Bir Nabala project. We met and I handed him the plans. He named a committee of clergy to meet with us to proceed with the project. After six months of trying in vain to arrange a meeting, I went to inquire whether the Patriarch could help. I was surprised by his reaction, for he suddenly seemed to be of the opinion that I was only working for my personal interest even though I had financed the plans for the project.
In 1997, after the death of my mother, I approached the Patriarchate and signed with them a written agreement to design and build a garden in front of the offices of the Society. I had a stone engraved with the sign of the brotherhood in memory of my mother. At the official opening of the garden of the Holylanders, which was attended by many members of the Christian community in Jerusalem, the Israeli police were sent by the Patriarchate to vacate us from the garden. Not long after that, an eviction order was delivered to me by an Israeli court to vacate the office as well as the garden because no rent had been paid since the election of Patriarch Eirineous. When I  inquired about whether I could pay and settle the issue, I was told by the acting Bishop that ‘it was too late to turn the tide around’.
I hired a lawyer and sued the Patriarchate for the Bir Nabala plans which I had designed and financed for ‘my personal interest’. After nine months of negotiations we came to an agreement by which I received payment for the work done, on the condition that I would vacate the property. This was then to be used for the community, and the Patriarchate would rent me another suitable office space, if I could find one. I gave them three options which could be used by Holylanders but unfortunately I was denied all of them with different excuses for each. Last week, the Patriarchate sent its workers to remove and destroy the engraved stone and two days ago they removed the furniture of Holylanders from its offices, even though the furniture and documents of the society were supposedly kept in custody of the Patriarchate. Neither I nor any of the members of the society had been asked to remove the furniture and documents, nor were we informed that it would be done forcefully by the Patriarchate.
As a result of complaining to the Bishop responsible for properties, I was called to the Police Station to make a statement, since aman of God had accused me of threatening him.
So, my question is: if your opponent is the judge, who do you turn to?

Written by Petros Ibn El Roumieh

September 21, 2011 at 9:50 pm

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من هو فوق البطريرك’

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من هو فوق البطريرك’

يقع بالقرب من باب الجديد في البلدة القديمة مبنى منعزل موالي لمدرسة مار متري في احدى ازقة البلدة. ويقام هذا المبنى على قطعة أرض مملوكة لبطريركية الروم الارثوذكس ، والتي كانت تستخدم في السابق من قبل البلدية. وقد تم استأجار المبنى عام 1993 من قبلي المهندس بطرس أبو شنب ، و بدوري قمت ببناء  المبنى المذكور منذ فترة الايجار.

استخدم هذا المبنى من قبل المطران عطاالله حنا في عام 2001 وحتى العام 2004، كمكتب له وبصفة المبنى مقرا لجمعية الحفاظ على التراث المسيحي في الأرض المقدسة، وقد تم ذلك في أعقاب طرد المطران من بطريركية الروم الارثوذكس من قبل البطريرك السابق ايرينيوس. في خلال هذه الفترة الزمنية ، توقف  عن دفع مبلغ الايجار ، وذلك بسبب عدم وجود تسوية للحسابات بيني وبين البطريركية بعد ان قمت  بالعمل على بعض المشاريع لمصلحة البطريركية دون سداد المبالغ الستحقة لي من قبل البطريركية.

في عام 2007 ، بدأت الجمعية اعمال ترميم حديقة المبنى ، وقد تم ذلك بعد الموافقة اللفظية من البلدية كمستخدم سابق للمبنى والتي بدورها قامت باعمال ترميم في السابق. في عام 2008 ، امرت البطريركية بايقاف اعمال الترميم والبناء معلنة أن أي تجديدات يجب ان يتم الموافقة عليها من قبل البطريركية. ونتيجة لذلك ، قمت بطلب للحصول على تصريح من البطريركية الارثوذكسية اليونانية و بينما كان يناقش الموضوع بين الجهات المعنية في مكتب شؤون الاملاك في البطريركية،  قام محامي البطريركية رامي المغربي بالتهجم الشخصي على شاتما معتقداتي و مهددا بطردي  من المبنى امام شهود عيان وهم الأرشمندريت اينيكنديوس و المطران ميثوديوس حتى لو سيكون ،  القضية الأخيرة له.

في وقت لاحق من عام 2008 ، تم رسم اتفاقية من قبل البطريركية تنص على حقي  باستخدام و ترميم حديقة المبنى بشرط الا تستخدم للمصلحة الفردية او الربح الشخصي. كون المبنى مقرا لجمعية المقدسين الحفاظ على التراث المسيحي في الأرض المقدسة ،  تم المتابعة في عملية ترميم الحديقة.

في يوم عيد الفصح من عام 2009 ، تم رفع قضيتان ضدي من قبل البطريركية الارثوذكسية اليونانية المحكمة الإسرائيلية  ألاولى امرت بطرد ي من أماكن العمل  نظرا لعدم دفع الإيجار، وشمل ذلك  المكاتب  والحدائق المحيطة بها في البلدة القديمة، والتي تم تجديدها وهندستها من قبل الجمعية  . اما القضية الثانية التي رفعت تضمنت دعوى لوقف العمل في الحديقة المجاورة للمبنى المذكور.
ان المكتب المستأجر والحديقة التابعة له هي بمثابة مقر للجمعية وبحيث تم تغطية جميع تكاليف الأعمال  فيها من جانب الجمعية ، على أن تستخدم في وقت لاحق لمصلحة افراد الرعية و لمنفعة المجتمع المحلي. مع اني ابدي استعدادي التام لتسوية حساباتي

بعد التوصل الى تسوية مع البطريركية في المحكمة ، اتفق على ان يخلوا المكاتب، شرط أن  يعود بالنفع على المجتمع. على أن  تبقى اللوحة الحجر ية التي وضعت من قبل المقدسيين  ذكرى القديس بطرس.   وإمكانية لاستئجار مكاتب  أخرى للجمعية ،
وقد طلبت لاستئجار ثلاثة مواقع محتملة ولكن للأسف لم يكن هناك رغبة من البطريركية.وقبل اسبوعين  كتب الدكتور برنارد سابيلا   ممثل المسيحية في القدس رسالة لتسوية القضية

. وكان جوابهم قبل يومين, اذ ارسلت البطريركية بعض العمال لإزالة الأثاث المكتبي ودمرت اللوحة الحجر ية.  ذهبت إلى البطريركية للاستفسار من الاسقف ، توقفت عند المدخل، وقيل أنه لن يسمح لي بالدخول.. ….بأمر من البطريرك

Written by Petros Ibn El Roumieh

September 17, 2011 at 9:26 pm

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United…. We are wise.

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Petros Ibn El’Roumieh

April 2011, Occupied Jerusalem

If I were in a position to send a message to the Orthodox Patriarch of the Holy City, the Womb of Christianity, the message would be the same that was taught by the Orthodox saints – ‘United, we are wise’.  Unfortunately, it seems that in Jerusalem, Al Kanisah Al Maqdisiah – The Holy Church – where Christianity was birthed as one Orthodox faith, has become a phenomenon of the past. The Orthodox in Jerusalem are now divided among themselves.

Today’s period of time in Jerusalem is similar to that period in history, when the first Christians were persecuted by both the Jews and the Gentiles. Christians constitute less than 2% of Jerusalem’s citizens. The faithful are being persecuted by many peoples of different beliefs, including some who call themselves Christians.

In Orthodoxy, The Church is defined as the embodiment of the Icon of The Christ through a bishop and his flock in a certain place. Or as St. Ignatius, the God-bearer says, ‘the Church is of the Christ in the bishop his priests and deacons, with the people, surrounding the Eucharist in true faith’. The Church’s hierarchy today does not represent ‘its faithful members’. Those faithful, who have been affected politically, socially, and economically, are trying to escape this war-torn country and are seeking a safe haven elsewhere. The remaining Orthodox in Jerusalem deserve a better leadership. The bishops who ought to be entrusted with the mysteries of our faith have turned ‘my father’s house into markets’ (John 2:16). The flock must have a say in who is worthy to lead them, the same way they did during early Christianity when they announced St. James to be their Bishop.

Not only men of robe are in upheaval, also the community in Jerusalem is in dismay.  Disunity seems to be the norm today.  The Big Feast of the Light is approaching and whether the Palestinian Christians will be able to pray in Jerusalem on that day remains to be seen. Christians will have to deal with not only the newly constructed outer Wall of the New City but also with the inner Wall of the Old City. Jerusalem will again be closed to the faithful unless clergy and community unite.

To achieve this unity within the Church, my message to the Patriarch would be to call on the faithful within the localities under his jurisdiction –  Akko, Nazareth, Tabor, Neapolis, Capitolias, Bostra, Alephiropolis, Philadelphia, Sinai, Tiberias, Caesarea, Petra,      Apilla,  Jaffa    Ciriacopolis,   and Costantini – to elect their bishops, who together with the Patriarch will constitute the Jerusalem Orthodox Synod. This synod will then be entrusted with the affairs of the Patriarchate.



Written by Petros Ibn El Roumieh

April 14, 2011 at 3:26 pm

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The Torchbearer

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February 2011

Petros Ibn El Roumieh

The ‘Roum’ Orthodox community in Jerusalem and the Holy Land has lost faith in their Patriarch Theophilos III who was elected unanimously by the Jerusalem Synod in 2005. There was hope that after the ousting of the previous Patriarch by the community, he would bring glory back to the Church and implement the promises he gave to work with the community according to the Jordanian Law.  Instead of restoring the Patriarchate as the seat of Orthodox Christianity as the first Qibla of the believers in the  God of Abraham, Theophilos III managed to push the community even further away from the church.

The Arab Orthodox Community of the Holyland had the upper hand in voicing their opposition to the sale of the Imperial Hotel in the Old City to Jewish settlers in the beginning of 2005. A delegation went to Constantinople to find a solution and it was agreed that for the Peace of Jerusalem that new elections will take place to find a successor. Unfortunately, the community was not asked to recognize the election. Instead the recognition of the four governments, namely the Greek, the Israeli, the Jordanian, and the Palestinian, was given to Theophilos III as the new Patriarch of the Holy City.

The enthronement of Patriarch Theophilos III added to the division that already existed within the Orthodox Community in Jerusalem. There are now those who support him and there are those who support the ousted Patriarch Ireneous I, who still resides to this day within the Patriarchate,* and those who declared Patriarch Theophilos III a persona non grata and refused to receive him in the usual manner on Christmas celebrations this year. **

The New Imperial Hotel case is still not settled in the Israeli courts, one would have thought that a clear case of fraud committed by a criminal implanted to pull this deal would be an open shut case. Today, five years later, Ateret Cohanim has a right to stop any renovation works, under the pretext that the case is not yet settled. Jerusalem Christian lands continued to be leased unfairly to Jewish investors, as though there is shortage of Arab Investors, if not Christian. Jerusalemite Christians continue to be unfairly treated and in some cases are evicted from church property.

Whether it is Irineous or Theophilos or Christopholous, the conflict was never about personality but rather about the person who keeps the word of God, which has been overlooked by both Patriarchs in their personal battles to keep the throne. The commandment of Jesus to love one’s enemy, should not mean hate your brother. This Easter, Christians might not be able again to enter Jerusalem to reach the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, especially when the Patriarch will be accompanied by an Israeli police battalion to ensure his safety. The Torchbearer of the Light of Resurrection does not need protection from his community; the torchbearer is carried on the shoulders of the community.

It seems that the Arab Awakening Spirit which has brought down despots has not yet reached Jerusalem. Indications of a change however can be spotted. Orthodox Christians today are redefining ‘Roum’ Orthodox to mean ‘Arab Christian’ Orthodox. The Orthodox Church in Jerusalem seems to be waiting for its true Torchbearer.

* http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/01/06/ousted-patriarch-locked-doors-jerusalem/#ixzz1AZDbaaUP,

**  http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=343841,


Written by Petros Ibn El Roumieh

February 22, 2011 at 8:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


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November 2010

Petros Ibn El Roumeih

The air in Jerusalem these days is heavy, similar to the days before the six days war.  The issue of Jewish settlements within Occupied East Jerusalem has added to the conflict posed on Christian Jerusalemites in particular. The Church in Jerusalem today is passing through a rough storm, which is only apparent to those who are following its news. The Catholic Church is investing to keep its Church of Jerusalem multinational. It has re-acquired properties which were rented out to Israeli organizations. The Orthodox Church however, is still trying to recover from the Jaffa Gate Scandal and might actually be on the verge of collapse. The recent acquisitions by “Israeli Investors”, as the Church is calling them, are adding to its demise. These events are providing a foothold for almost everyone else, except the Arab Orthodox Christians who actually own one forth the land within the Old City.

Peace within the Christian community was a result of the status Quo agreement. This  divided the Church physically not only between Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant, but also between the various nations within the Eastern and the Western Churches *. Even though the community of Jerusalemite Christians is of a Palestinian culture, a Palestinian Church was never established in Jerusalem. The history of Jerusalem shows the universal role Jerusalem has to Christianity in general and to Arab Christians in particular. Arab Christians consider Jerusalem as Holy as Mecca is to Arab Moslems. Jerusalem is where the Arab Christians gathered on pilgrimage at Easter. I remember the Feast celebrations before the Six Days War 1967. Christians of Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Sudan and other countries came for pilgrimage to ‘AlQuds’ the Holy City, “Our Capital” on Easter.

Although the majority of the Church in Jerusalem consists of Arab Christians, many other languages are spoken today, as it happened at Pentecost 2000 years ago. Today one hears at Notre Dame Spanish, at St Ann’s French, at St Magdalene Russian, at St Elias Greek, at St George English, at Augusta Victoria German, at St. Jacob Armenian, yet all are part of the Christian Arab community of Jerusalemite Christians. Hebrew Catholics have become the latest addition, though mainly in the West part of the city. Arab Christians have had a continuous history in Jerusalem and were known as Ruum. Today, the split which exist between Catholicism and Orthodoxism on one hand and national churches on the other is apparent, especially during Feast days. Only in Jerusalem Christmas is celebrated thrice per year, for we adhere to different Christian calendars.

From history, one knows that the keys of Aelia Capitolina (Jerusalem) in 637 were handed to the Khalifeh Omar Ibn Elkhattab by the ‘Patriarch’ Sophronios who held them. Today these keys are held by the Mufti of the Holy City, ‘AlQuds’, as it became known. The keys of the Holy Sepulchre remained in possession of the Patriarchate till the time of the Crusaders. The conquest of Jerusalem from the Crusades by Salah ElDin came at a price, Muslims were entrusted with the protection of the Holy places in Jerusalem. In the year 1545 a firman (decree) was given by the Ottoman Sultan appointing Shikh Abd Al Qader Bin Al Shikh Mosa Al Ghudayeh in the post of Key Custodian of the Church of The Holy Sepulchre. The keys are held by his descendants till this day. The wisdom behind it was to bring an end to the conflict between East and West as to the custody of the keys. However, it rather created a division between the Arab brothers of Muslims and Christians. The noun “Arab” became an adjective. Arab Christian and Arab Muslim became cousins rather than brothers. Today we have become second cousins, adding more divisions to the thousand years old conflict between the Eastern and Western Churches.

The declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state, could be dealt with by a declaration from the World Council of Churches, to move their Headquarter from Geneva to Holy Jerusalem. After all, this is the birthplace of Christianity and the place of the resurrection of Jesus the Christ – not the Jew nor the Gentile.

* Divisions of Jerusalem Church and its heads:

A. The Eastern Orthodox Church

1. Greek Orthodox Church – Patriarch Theophilos III

B. The Non-Chalcedonian (Oriental Orthodox)

2. Armenian Church – Patriarch Torkom Manooghian

3. Syrian Church – Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad

4. Coptic Church – Archbishop Anba Abraham

5. Ethiopian Church – Archbishop Abouna Mathias

C. The Catholic Church

6. Roman (Latin) Catholic Church – Patriarch Fuad Twal

7. (Syriac) Maronite Catholic Church – Archbishop Paul Sayyah

8. Greek Catholic (Melkite) Church – Archbishop Youssef Jules Zreyi

9. Armenian Catholic Church – Fr. Rafael Minassian

10. Syrian Catholic Church – Bishop Pierre Malki

11. Custodians of the Holy Land – Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, ofm

D. The Evangelical Churches

12. Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and The Holy Land – Bishop Munib Younan

13. Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East – Bishop Suheil Dawani

Written by Petros Ibn El Roumieh

November 28, 2010 at 2:25 pm

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