Jerusalem churches appeal to government to safeguard Easter worship after attacks

Churches in Jerusalem appealed to the government on Friday to ensure that Christians are able to worship freely during and around Easter, expressing concern over growing violence and acts of desecration over the past year.

Easter, which marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Christian tradition, coincides again this year with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish festival of Passover, and followers of all three faiths are expected to flock to the Old City of Jerusalem.

During the same period last year, East Jerusalem was the scene of clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians, some of whom are Christians.

In a joint message for Easter, the churches called on “supervisory officials to work together and in cooperation with us,” to “ensure safety, access and religious freedom for the resident Christian community and the millions of Christian pilgrims who visit the Holy Land every year. “

Church leaders criticized “over the past year, some of our churches, funeral processions and public meeting places have become targets of attacks,” with some ceremonies “closed to thousands of worshipers.” Israeli police clashed with mourners during the funeral procession of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, a Christian, in scenes that sparked international outrage last May.

“And this despite our agreements to cooperate with the authorities in power,” they complained.

Donald Binder, chaplain of the Anglican archbishop of Jerusalem, noted that in recent years the Israeli forces had limited the number of Christians who were allowed to attend Easter ceremonies in the Old City.

Israeli police clash with mourners as they carry the casket of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, nearly tipping over, outside St. Joseph’s Hospital during her funeral in Jerusalem, May 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Maya Levin )

For him, such a practice was “clear discrimination” by the Israeli authorities, considering that “thousands” of Jews and “even more” Muslims have unhindered access to their holy Old City sites.

Israel says it protects freedom of worship for all religions in Jerusalem.

Christian places of worship in Jerusalem have seen a wave of attacks in recent months, some blamed on Jewish extremists.

Earlier this month, two men allegedly attacked a priest in a church at the Tomb of the Virgin Mary.

A statue with a top in the Church of the Annunciation, in the Old City of Jerusalem, February 2, 2023. (Conservation of the Holy Land)

In February, a statue of Jesus Christ was vandalized at the Convention Church, where Christians believe Jesus was flogged and executed.

A month earlier, dozens of Christian graves were destroyed at the Anglican cemetery on Mount Zion, where Christians believe Christ’s Last Supper took place.

“As we have all seen in recent months, increasing violence has engulfed the Holy Land,” church leaders wrote in their mission on Friday. “Local Christians in particular are suffering more.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

You are a dedicated reader

That’s why we started The Times of Israel eleven years ago – to provide discerning readers like you with must-read coverage of Israel and the Jewish world.

So now we have a request. Unlike other news outlets, we have not put up a pay wall. But since the journalism we do is expensive, we invite readers for whom The Times of Israel has become important to help our work by joining. The Times of Israel Community.

For as little as $6 a month you can support our quality journalism while enjoying The Times of Israel AD-FREEas well as access exclusive content available to Times of Israel Community members only.

Thank you,
David Horovitz, Founding Editor of The Times of Israel

Join our Community Join our Community Already a member? Sign in to stop seeing this

Leave a Comment