comfort and joy

I visited Israel a number of years ago on a choir tour for a couple of weeks around Christmas. As well as some great concerts, we did the BBC Radio 4 Christmas service broadcast from Bethlehem University. We also had a good bit of time for touring, in groups and by ourselves. It was strange, visiting the religious sites – especially the Christian ones -how un-religious they felt (apart from the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth which was peaceful, beautiful and very moving). I think a large reason for this was that the sites -specifically the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity – are co-owned and run by a number of Christian factions, each of which seems to believe that they should have sole rights. If you follow the link on the Church of the Sepulchre you’ll see information on the famous immovable ladder, for example, where nobody could agree on who should be responsible for work on the church, and today I saw that there was actually a priestly brawl in the Church of the Holy Nativity where “long-standing rivalries erupted in violence during holiday cleaning.” We didn’t see anything like that but we did see a number of ornately robed priests with big beards and heavy wooden staffs who were parading around in a very arrogant manner – you could easily imagine that getting in their way would result in fisticuffs:

brawl.jpg

One Response to “comfort and joy”

  1. Andrew says:

    I should note that although we didn’t see any argy-bargy we did hear several times about the cleaning issues. Apparently it’s fairly common practice for one sect to sweep or dump their trash in another sect’s part of the church. I guess that in this instance there was so much trash that things got out of hand. Who would guess that the combination of cleaning and religion could be so flammable.

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