As President Reuven Rivlin mentioned some days ago, Israeli society is apparently breaking down into pieces of tribal attitudes. Indeed, unity is real among the Jews so far there is a danger or an overall situation in which the unity of Judaism may be challenged. 68 years of existence with daily perils, daily aggressions, constant philosophical and “religious” negation, commerce with the “others” and the difficulties t odefine the newness of a Hebrew body that encompasses people and mentalities from all possible diachronic and synchronic realities can lead the newly nation still in the pangs of birth to harsh comportemental imbalance, lack of equilibrium. This can relate to historic or “holy and sacred” places, sites of Judaism first then of those who have been present for more than two millenia. It is dangerous for all. First, Jews have to combat their ignorance of the others, their rejection of people who terribly persecuted them along the centuries and sometimes are in the same position as described by President Rivlin, i.e. that they may have become “stiff” in their own ways, not all of them, but setting away, each for themselves and each other as regards the Christian traditions in Jerusalem, getting estranged (entfremdet) and thus much more toward present-day Jewishness.
On the other hand, the State of Israel guarantees full freedom of speech and conscience/חופש דיבור ודת to all the religions that are present and those that have been present – it is a reality we all have to accept – not only in Jerusalem but in the whole of the Near and Middle-East. It is quite important to show the video made by Studio Angel (that works together with the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem): it is courageous and important. Status Quo may be questioned. It has been existant and in force since the Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate and the Jordanian rule. In 1967, Israel decided to respect these firmans and they are indeed still in force with regards to the guarantee the rights of all the Christian congregations in the State of Israel and those Curch sites that duly are at the present under the control and the rules of the State of Israel. This has nothing to do with the many pending demands that shake the Jewish society as the right or prohibition to climb and pray on the Temple Mount. Yehudah Glick works for this but he does this in a very peaceful way, recognizing all those who want to be there, in particular the Muslims. It has nothing to do with “pretence” or “ownership”. Over 2000 years, the Jews have been barred to come and worship in Jerusalem and, before 1967, they were not allowed to go to the Western Wall. At the present, the access is free to all and nobody has anything to pay (this was not the case under the Jordanian rule). One forgets that Omar Ibn-al-Khattab had issued a Decree (Achtiname) in 637-8) that he granted to Patriarch Sophronios of Jerusalem for the benefit of all the recognized Christian Churches. One also forgets that the Decree also included the permission for the Jews to worship in Jerusalem. The local Churches continue to refer to this Decree at the present, while Israel considers it does not concern the Jewish State.
Then, people have no right, due to their ignorance, to consider the Christians as “heathens, pagans, idol worshippers”. It is not serious as Rashi defined in his first commentaries that the “Christians of our generations are no more heathen/goyim because they confess the One God”. For 68 years and over centuries, the Christians, in particular the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Mother of all the Churches of God, has been processing in the site. There is a tribal reaction this year that is sad. One must be careful with those who yell and those who keep silent whilst also looking with envy and some inner hatred toward the Jews and the Israelis. There is more: yes, the Christians have persecuted the Jews by holding the Cross while rushing to kill them during the pogroms. It is real. But the sign of the Cross is also the last letter of the ancient Hebrew alphabet or the sign of the rose of Sharon (Song of the Songs). The yelling that has been recorded in the appended video is not decent, truly. But the strange part of it is that singing the “The Lord reigned, reigns and will reign for ever” prayer (ה’ מלך ה’ מלך ה’ ימלך לעולם ועד) echoes as a full misunderstanding of the Greek prayers that do express the same faith in the Only One God Creator of heave nand Earth. In this aspect, things are just “out of common sense”.
On the other hand, the State of Israel has to protect and guarantee the full rights of the Christian communities: they “safeguarded” the sites over the millenia and Israel cannot only accept them as “tourists”. This claim is shameful as all human beings are equal and have the right to live anywhere in the world, esp. in Zion where “each human being is born (Psalm 87). Revenge, spiritual revenge cannot rely upon full absence of knowledge of those who are with us. Still, indeed, there maybe a turn: for the first time in history, the Jews do control those communities that confess a resurrected Jew, submitted to the (Jewish Law) (Galatians 4:4) and whose in-gathering shows that “to them belong the Covenant, the Law and the Service (liturgical one)” (Romans 9:4) and this is brand new to all. This also implies to respectfully behave toward all for the sake of all.
This is the video of the celebration at Mount Zion:
“Through police officers, the Jews demanded that incense not be burned nor candles lit, and that there be no crosses. Such demands are being made for the first time. It is also reported that only ten Orthodox worshipers were allowed to come into the Upper Room, and the service was delayed for half an hour.”. Indeed a first time, a hapax, a chidush/חידוש. I put today the video that has been recorded of the whole of the celebration at Mt Zion, conducted by Archbishop Dorotheos of Avila, with the few Orthodox priests and deacons who were allowed to enter the “King David’s Tomb [Tsar David sounds a bit special in Russian and the taste of lively pogrom attacks are a bit too fresh till recent years] here, as shown in the video, they could pray in accordance with the Orthodox tradition, peacefully and without anger. This is also due to the Archbishop’s character (a very close friend of Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem). Among the policemen were some Arab Christians, in particular Johnny. It appears that some rabbinic leaders are not linked to any office or location on Mount Zion, many of the Jewish protesters decided to yell at the Greek Orthodox (many of the priests went to Hebrew University or speak Hebrew quite well), the whole scenery is “lost-minded”. On the other hand, the “pravoslavie.ru” online site does not support the Jews or the Israelis at all and this is a major failure in the report. There are mutual ignorance, many “Jews” feel ashamed when seeing this that is in full contradiction to the laws in force in the State of Israel. Not only the secure the freedom of speech and conscience, but to respect the many rites and traditions of all the denominations, religions present from long before the creation of the State of Israel. Some Jewish people wrote to me that they have been kicked out from churches or monasteries (Orthodox or Catholic places). This does exist too, as in response though it is the same: weirdo, total nonsense: human nonsense and theological, religious nonsense as well. All places are secured by the present Legal system in the State of Israel and this is a common rule to all those who are citizens, residents. The Orthodox and Catholic Churches (we as Orthodox do consider ourselves as both “Catholic and Orthodox”) are today’s heirs and splits of the one Mother Church of Jerusalem who was born at Mt Zion and did proclaim the unicity of the One Father who is in heaven. In Israel as in the Middle-East, we mix ethnicities, races, “paysage backgrounds” and do not try to thirst for more encounters – this splits all religious and secular groups from their insides. By no way, it is a scandal to respond to Christian faithful whose tradition traces back to the very beginning of the Early Church that they should remove their crosses and not make use of incense (ktoret/קטורת). Indeed, pogroms were led by fanatic monks holding the cross, true, but the sign is more a Roman instrument of torture used as a sign for shame that also corresponds to the Tav, the last letter of the ancient Hebrew and Aramaic alphabets, thus used by Saint Francis to bless and a kind of rose (Song of the Songs). One thing is essential: by no means, no Israeli or Muslim Palestinian authorities will ever be able to erase the living presence of a creed that is rooted in the land and the millenia history of the Fertile Crescent. It broke up, faith cannot really match in many ways but respectful attitudes are a must, specially in our context and Israeli knowhow of clutching to self-control. This also applies to the Christians and real efforts to find some ways to discuss. Such incidents show what Hans Urs von Balthasar had noticed in 1958 in his book “Einsame Zwiesprache mit Martin Buber”: “Jews and Christians practically never had the opportunity to share”. Such incidents show the profundity of the gap, the estrangement even if there are or seem to be theologians and scholars that try to come closer. The plit is deeper than any mental schism and common speech should start some day. It did not, even if we may think if is en route. One monk who was present at Mt Zion once told me I should teach them (the Greek Orthodox he meant) the Talmud – as I was a bit astounded though saying it would make sense, he replied that they do speak Hebrew but not the same Hebrew as those who have the ways and language of the Talmud and thus they do not really match. He intended to bring the Jews to the True Faith, while not seeing in each of them the very presence of the living letters as consonants of the Father and decrypt the vowels brought to show the fulfillment of the Reign of the Lord of the Universe. At this point, the Churches would have to think over in terms of openness and true love and the Israeli Jews persevere in their courageous path of tolerance.