The Holy Brawl

As a result of a peculiar unraveling of events (Call it fate?) in Jerusalem, within 500 square meters, are located three of the most sacred sites of three of...

As a result of a peculiar unraveling of events (Call it fate?) in Jerusalem, within 500 square meters, are located three of the most sacred sites of three of the biggest religions in the world.

For Jews, the Western Wall (better known as the Wailing Wall) is the striking remnants of their Second Temple (Harod’s Temple) , which was destroyed by the Emperor Titus in 70 AD.

For Muslims, the Great mosque; built in 687 AD on the site where Mohammed ascended to heaven on a white horse in 620 AD.

For Christians, it is the place where Jesus Christ was crucified after suffering the Via Crucis.

Among Christians there are several differences in the cult of the Virgin Mary, in the Holy Spirit, but the one thing that is shared by all is Jesus Christ and the church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The church was built in 326 AD and later destroyed by Caliph Amr-Allah in 1009. When the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem, they immediately built the new church: already then the first great divisions among Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Copts and Syrians, began on the use of the sepulchre. Different zones for worship of each of these Christian denominations were established in the church.

The Greek-Orthodox obtained the most important area.

A ladder at the Holy Sepulchre has been lying on the wall since 1909, as the priests cant agree on who should move it.

A ladder at the Holy Sepulchre has been lying on the wall since 1909, as the priests cant agree on who should move it.

In 1182, the great Saladin, who defeated the Crusaders, decided to leave the holy site intact but, given the quarrels among Christians, handed the keys of the church to two Palestinian families: Nusayba Ghudayya whom every morning since that day, open the doors of church at 4am and close again in the evening. This still happens today.

Finally, after centuries of disputes and accidents, in 1852 the various contenders signed the status Quo that, since then, divides the spaces for worship minutely. In fact, Roman Catholics control the place where Jesus was crucified, whilst five meters away, the place where the crosses were raised is under Orthodox administration.

However there is a common area, which excludes Copts and Syrians: the Holy Sepulchre. This space is divided between Greek Orthodox, Armenians and Catholics who, every day say mass at specific times and during which the others cannot attend.

Confrontation is always around the corner: for example on November 10 2008 there was a big Armenian procession; when they arrived at the sepulchre they saw a Greek Orthodox priest who had inadvertently misunderstood the timings: this resulted in a giant fist fight between priests.

The same thing usually happens during the Saturday before Easter during the procession of the Holy Fire (also known as The Miracle of Light).

Even simple logistics such as cleaning, reparations or other works that are to be done, are causes of accidents and fights.

It is simply amazing, for example, that a ladder has been leaning against the wall since 1909: no one wants to move it because they consider it to be the job of others and it has been lying there for more than 100 years.

Israeli police break the fights between priests in the Holy Sepulchre

Israeli police break the fights between priests in the Holy Sepulchre

Precisely, in light of the frequent fistfights it can be noted, ironically, that most of the priests of the Roman-catholic, Greek-Orthodox, Coptic, Armenian and Syrian churches, have considerably robust bodies.

Additionally the odd tourist who seeks information inside the Holy Sepulchre, is more likely to have his answers from priests belonging to the church he follows, otherwise he or she will most likely receive annoyed and imprecise answers.

In conclusion it is surreal that in the most sacred place of Christianity, it is the Muslims who open the door for tourists and, in case of fistfights the Israeli police, among the shocked spectator, enters the Holy Sepulchre to break the fights and restore calm among the priests.

The Holy Brawl
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WiB Team

WIB team was founded by Virginia and Marco, and joined recently by Francesca, Irina and Laura.
One Comment
  • Roger Hawcroft
    Roger Hawcroft
    27 October 2015 at 8:54 am
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    An interesting piece, this one, not least because it highlights the irrationality of those who are controlled by dogma and ritual. It also shows the contradiction between what the most revered figures of religion are recorded to have advocated and the reality of the day to day behaviour of those that claim to revere them.

    What this piece highlights for me is the extremity of delusion of which human beings are capable and the apparently unending capacity that they have for choosing to disagree, even to the point of conflict – despite their gods, prophets, saints, holy books or even their own sermons, encyclicals and equivalents preaching peace, good-will, selflessness and kindness as desirable attributes for reaching Nirvana, gaining access to heaven, achieving mortality or whatever.

    I wonder who it was that left that ladder in place? Was it, perhaps, someone with spiritual faith and respect that transcended the very human and petty divisions of religions and their differing internal interpretations such as are being demonstrated even today by those who would claim to be most devout? – Or, perhaps it was an illiterate, dumb and deaf artisan who, though excelling at his craft, was immune to indoctrination and simply lived and behaved with the natural innocence and ability to give and receive kindness with which we are all born.

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