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April 7, 2016 10:06 am

Israel Credited With Saving Jerusalem’s ‘Tomb of Jesus,’ Causing Rival Christian Groups to Unite in Its Repair

avatar by Lea Speyer

Religious pilgrims wait on line to enter the Tomb of Jesus at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Photo: Berthold Werner/Wikimedia Commons.

Religious pilgrims wait on line to enter the Tomb of Jesus at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Photo: Berthold Werner/Wikimedia Commons.

The Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem is crediting Israel with saving a holy Christian site, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

According to the report, the shrine around what many believe is the tomb of Jesus, inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem, is in a dilapidated state and desperately in need of repair. But it was not until Israel shut it down for fear it would collapse that rival Christian groups set aside their differences to save it.

Rev. Samuel Aghoyan, the Armenian Patriarchate’s representative at the Holy Sepulchre, told the Times, “If the Israeli government didn’t get involved, nobody would have done anything.”

On February 17, 2015, Israeli police barred religious pilgrims and the monks who guard the tomb from entering the holy site for several hours after receiving reports that it was at risk of caving in. “The message was clear: Fix it, or else,” the New York Times noted.

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“Somebody had to push us,” said Aghoyan. Athanasius Macora, a Franciscan friar, explained to the New York Times, “Unity is more important than a turf war.”

An agreement between the different religious Christian groups who man the site — signed on March 22 — will see $3.4 million going towards renovations. According to the New York Times, “Each religious group will contribute one-third of the costs, and a Greek bank contributed 50,000 euros, or $57,000, for the scaffolding, in return for having its name emblazoned across the machinery.”

The “Tomb of Jesus” is surrounded by a 206-year-old structure held together by a 69-year-old cage, the report said. Over the last several weeks, scaffolding has popped up a few feet away from the shrine as part of initial steps to save the shrine.

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