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September 21, 2015 3:40 pm

Protestant Minister Says Fellow Christian Leaders’ Call for Jordanian Control of All Holy Sites in Israel Prompted by Threats

avatar by Ruthie Blum

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Church of St. John the Baptist (Ein Karem, Jerusalem). Photo: Wikipedia.

Church of St. John the Baptist (Ein Karem, Jerusalem). Photo: Wikipedia.

A prominent Protestant minister in Jerusalem accused the Palestinian Authority of coercing the Christian leadership in the Holy Land into turning against Israel.

Wishing to remain anonymous, this senior figure told The Algemeiner that the release of a “Statement from the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem” – signed by 13 church leaders – is a direct result of this kind of “unholy” relationship between Arab-Muslims and the Christians who live in fear of their wrath.

The statement in question, released Monday and posted on the website of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, is a response to the escalating violence on the Temple Mount, the control over which was given to the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf (a Muslim trust) by Israel following its victory in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Calling on the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to take custody of all holy places in Israel to maintain the “status quo,” the statement reads as follows:

We, the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, wish to express our serious concern regarding recent violent development on Haram al Sharif.

We condemn all threats of change to historical (Status Quo) situation in the Al-Aqsa Mosque (Haram Asharif) and its courtyard, all buildings, and in the city of Jerusalem. Any threat to its continuity and integrity could easily lead to unpredictable consequences which would be most unwelcome in the present delicate political climate.

Muslims have the right to free access and worship to the Al Aqsa Mosque.

There is a great importance of the custody of the Hashemite kingdom on Al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy places in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. We believe that all Holy Sites need constant watchful protection so that reasonable access to them can be maintained according to the prevailing Status Quo of all three Abrahamic faiths.

We renew our call that the existing agreed Status Quo governing these sites needs to be fully respected for the sake of the whole community.

[Signed by]

The Heads of churches in Jerusalem

+Patriarch Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate

+Patriarch Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarchate

+Patriarch Nourhan Manougian, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate

+Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land

+Archbishop Anba Abraham, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem

+Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate

+Archbishop Aba Embakob, Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate

+Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey, Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarchate

+Archbishop Mosa El-Hage, Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate

+Archbishop Suheil Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East

+Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

+Bishop Pierre Malki, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate

+Msgr. Georges Dankaye’, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate

The senior Protestant minister, who asked to remain nameless so as not to jeopardize his relations with the above signatories, said that the church leadership in the Middle East suffers from “dhimmitude” — the subjugation of non-Muslims under Islamic rule.

The Christian leaders in Israel and the Palestinian Authority “are put under threat by the Palestinian-Muslim authorities,” the minister told The Algemeiner on Monday. “So much so that today there was a meeting of the heads of the churches begging the PA to be nice to the Christians in Bethlehem, who live under severe threat.”

But, the religious leader said, “You only get cooperation from the PA if you pay a price for it. And Israel is the price for another temporary period of comfort for Christians in PA-controlled areas.”

As for the Temple Mount, the minister said, “The status quo is constantly being violated by Muslims. It is they who are bringing in firebombs and rocks; it is they who do not treat the site as a holy place, but as a battle ground.”

This sentiment was echoed by Lela Gilbert, a fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Hudson Institute, where she works with the Center for Religious Freedom and the Center for Islam, Democracy and the Future of the Muslim World.

The author of Saturday People, Sunday People: Israel through the Eyes of a Christian Sojourner, Gilbert is a Christian who has been living in Jerusalem for the better part of a decade.

In a piece today (published by the Philos Project–Promoting Positive Christian Engagement in the Middle East) called “The Temple Mount – Outrageous Lies and Escalating Dangers,” she writes:

Perhaps the greatest contradiction in Jerusalem – and there are many – is that the Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, yet Jews (and Christians) are not permitted to pray there.

Religious Jews have attempted to relax that aspect of the so-called status quo. Just prior to the New Year, right-wing Israeli minister Uri Ariel visited the compound after vowing that he would pray there, arousing angry commentary across the Muslim world.

Nonetheless, when Jewish or Christian tourists arrive at the site, they are routinely informed about some stringently enforced regulations: Prayer and worship, prayer books and visible symbols of non-Muslim worship (such as phylacteries) are strictly forbidden.

She goes on,

It is no exaggeration to say that on the Temple Mount, incitement to violence by radical Muslims never stops for long. Disturbances frequently break out, usually inspired by rumors and falsified reports that the Jews are “storming,” or otherwise “defiling” Al-Aksa. These reports are widespread in Middle East news, simultaneously appearing in Saudi, Iranian, Turkish, Lebanese, Egyptian and other Muslim-dominated media.

According to Gilbert, statements like one signed by Jerusalem’s church leaders are inspired by such lies.

“If anyone has altered the status quo on the Temple Mount, it is the Muslims, not the Jews,” she told The Algemeiner.

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  • jeremy

    What this article misses is this is deja vu all over again, these “rumors” can be seen precisely as they are today with NO change whatsoever, in thee Muslim Brotherhood terrorist organizing of 1928. We even still ahave fliers from 1928 saying the exact things they are saying now.

    Like when Iran invented the Islamic Suicide Bombing, and England invented the Blood Libel, they do not change much over centuries. Muslims were reinventing the Blood Libel 25 times in the 1800s as a way to enjoy the violence they so enjoy, and steal Jewish land by the village then switch it on the vicitim over and over.

  • NuritG

    Those church leaders who signed the letter under coercion should be banned from Israel as weak to lead according to Christian values. They cannot be trusted. Expel them! and every Arab protest, rock and Molotov Cocktail thrower expels them and their family to Gaza, Syria or Jordan, get them out of Israel. They are trying to start a “Arab Winter” in Israel. Let them join the Syrian refugees who are flooding Europe. These Syrian refugees do not wish to fight for their country so they leave. These Arab agitators in Israel want to destroy Israel one way or another and they are doing a pretty good job thus far. Kill them, throw them out, do whatever to rid the country of this cancer, an evil element.

  • steven L

    Many Christians ortho and non-ortho prefer to blame Israel than confront Muslims! This is called: cowardice. Cowards are losers.

  • steven L

    Put scanners at every entrance of the TM. Savages cannot be allowed on the TM regardless of sex, color creed etc….

  • brenrod

    those churches should be banned from Israel as subversive. Send them to gaza, syria or jordan…. but get them out

  • Wm. J. Levy

    I lived in Israel for 12 years and witnessed the intimidation of Christians in Bethlehem and the Israeli city of Nazareth being forced to leave their birthplaces under threat of death by the Muslims.

    The fact that these acts were not thwarted by Israeli authorities was surprising. I don’t know what the percentage of Christians living in Nazareth is today but it would be interesting to find out.

    Arabs have always operated on attacking and plotting terrorist attacks.

  • Emanuel

    Stupid Abbas, they can’t pay with something they don’t have, Jordan though does control al aqsa and all you guys are seen as schoolchildren by IS except Israel that is. Stop trying to break things to get attention or complain about your made up, self imposed problems and blame us, it’s pathetic like our fake american president.

  • Sherlock Holmes

    According to most Gedolei HaPoskim we should not ascend the Temple Mount in our state of impurity. Rav Elyashiv ztl added that we should not provoke confrontation with the Arabs over the Temple Mount. Groups who publish the building plans for the Third Temple or media like the recent BBC Panorama on Jerusalem who interview a tour guide as if she were the Posek HaDor — they generate provocation, not to mention Govt ministers who announce they will ascend and pray instead of just doing so quietly. The Israeli Supreme Court upheld the right of Jews to ascend and pray, with the police deciding what will be non-provocative. During the years from 1948 to 1967 when Jordan occupied East Jerusalem, the Arabs did their best to destroy Jewish artifacts such as all the synagogues and even used grave stones from the Mount of Olives as floors for public latrines.

  • robert davis

    Muslims racket christians living Judea/Samaria Under the control of muslims and the PM would be well advised to kick out arabs from Temple Mount immediately and as soon as possible from Jérusalem and the whole of Judea/ Samaria over to jordan. He would be surprised to see nothing will happen, the world will shut up and the conflict will die away.After all these arabs are jordanians as of 1949 when jordan ocvcupied the place anbd gave them jordan citizenship. As to jordan it should know Historical Palestine was given to Jews at the San Remo/Sevres Treaty ie Eastern Palestine included and that GB gave it to jordan ILLEGALLY. It only became legal after they signed a Treaty with Israel. If this Treaty is broken, Eastern Palestine can be claimed by Israel.

  • Yoel Nitzarim

    I have just placed the following statement on my Facebook page for my 5000 friends to see and share with their friends. The security situation in Israel is in peril due to extreme, deadly violence–rioting, stone and rock throwing, launching of petrol bombs and molotov cocktails–at Jewish and other individuals other than Muslim in Jerusalem, especially on the Temple Mount or the Noble Sanctuary, and in Judea and Samaria.

    I wish to make a statement in English so that everyone–Muslim, Christian, and Jew–can fully understand my words. The situation in Israel at the holy sites has become extremely dangerous for Jews and Christians. This danger especially pertains to the Temple Mount or the Noble Sanctuary, Joseph’s Tomb, and the Cave of the Patriarchs. Sadly, the violence has filtered down into the streets of Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. As a concerned citizen of Israel and a Jew, I would call upon all citizens of Israel–Muslim, Christian, and Jew–to act decently, kindly, and respectfully toward one another. We all inhabit this very holy, tiny piece of land. Incitement to violence is not the answer to any grievance. Respectful, caring dialogue alone will bring about understanding among all of the people living here. Israel will not and must not relinquish control of the security of holy sites to Jordan because it is evident that Jordan is not able or willing to take responsibility for the safety, security, decency, and holiness of the Temple Mount or the Noble Sanctuary. It is obviously due to the incitement of Palestinian leadership both in the Palestinian Authority and in the Gaza Strip (Hamas and Islamic Jihad) that the violence is spiralling out of control. “We believe that all Holy Sites need constant watchful protection so that reasonable access to them can be maintained according to the prevailing Status Quo of all three Abrahamic faiths.” Yes, the latter quotation is accurate and true and it should be enforced solely under the auspices of the Israeli government as has been the case for decades. The peoples of all three Abrahamic faiths should have equal access to all holy sites. If the Christian leadership is being coerced into relinquishing its rights to its holy sites to Muslim custodianship via the Jordanian Waqf or the Palestinians, such coercion must not be accepted by Israel and the international community. Unilateral decisions and changes in authority concerning the guardianship and custodianship of the holy sites in Israel and the disputed territories must not be permitted.

  • I beg to differ with the article on several levels:

    1 – Muslims are not altering the status quo, they are violating the underlying sanctity of the site to all religions
    2 – Israelis are also violating terms of the status quo by doing the same thing, but in a less provocative way.
    3 – there are greater issues at work here, but not acknowledged by any side.

    The problems will continue until Israelis and Palestinians come to peaceful terms to their respective statehoods.