Anglican primate joins Christian leaders in Jerusalem in calling for calm at holy site

[Episcopal News Service] Leaders of the Christian churches in Jerusalem, including the Anglican primate, have called for peace and reconciliation amid tensions at a shared holy site in the city, as the Israel government backs down from a standoff over stricter security measures there.

Archbishop Suheil Dawani, primate of the Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, joined 12 other patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem in issuing a statement last week to “express our serious concern regarding recent escalation in violent developments around Haram ash-Sharif and our grief for the loss of human life, and strongly condemn any act of violence.”

The statement also affirms the church leaders’ support for existing agreements between Israel and Jordan to jointly maintain holy sites that are revered and frequented by both Jews and Muslims.

“We renew our call that the historical status quo governing these sites be fully respected, for the sake of peace and reconciliation to the whole community, and we pray for a just and lasting peace in the whole region and all its peoples,” the statement concludes.

The site is known by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and by Jews as the Temple Mount. Recent tensions have focused on access to the al-Aqsa Mosque, where on July 14, three Arab-Israeli gunmen opened fire, killing two Israeli policemen before being shot down themselves. The mosque was closed for Friday prayers for the first time in 17 years.

Before reopening the compound, Israel installed metal detectors at entrances to the mosque, a move that drew objections from Palestinians who said it limited their access to the holy site.

When Israel initially refused to remove the scanners, the protests escalated, and on July 23, a Jordanian of Palestinian descent was reported to have used a screwdriver to stab an Israeli security guard, who shot and killed the attacker along with another Jordanian.

Then on July 24, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after conferring by phone with King Abdullah II of Jordan, announced Israel would remove the metal detectors, The Washington Post reported. The removal began on July 25.

It remains to be seen whether the move will calm all tensions over the site. In removing the scanners, Israel is replacing them with more sophisticated surveillance cameras, which also have prompted objections from Palestinians.

The Palestinian official who oversees the al-Aqsa Mosque said the arrangement will remain unacceptable “unless everything that was added after July 14 was removed,” Al Jazeera reported.

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.

Comments

  1. F William Thewalt says:

    Some things most Episcopalians refuse to acknowledge: Israel does not occupy a Palestinian territory. There is no Palestinian government and therefore it cannot claim land. The “West Bank” is “disputed land” and not Palestinian territory. So called, Palestine refugees are, in fact, descendants of refugees. The Arab world has kept them. The U.S. perpetuates the fiction with support of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees. Muslim claims to Jerusalem are likely invalid because it is not mentioned in their Quran and it has never been mentioned as a capitol of any Islamic empire. Thus far there has been no evidence that Palestinian “leaders” are willing to accept a “two-state” solution. Instead their leadership calls for the destruction of Israel and Palestinians refuse to accept the legitimacy of Israel. Given this, it is hard to accept the position of the Episcopal Church in backing the Palestinians.

  2. We deeply respect Archbishop Suheil Dawani’s position as a bridge for reconciliation among all God’s children in a volatile land.

  3. Mr. Thewalt’s comments are over-simplified to the point of being propaganda. The reality is that the Israeli state has legitimate security concerns and a need for a homeland where Jewish identity can flourish (on one hand), while Palestinians are rightfully aggrieved at Israeli oppression, illegal land annexation, and rationing of water, electricity, and other goods (on the other hand). There is no simple solution which meets all the concerns and needs of both sides. Here is a resource that briefs on both sides of the conflict: https://www.amazon.com/Palestine-Israeli-Conflict-Beginners-Guide-Guides-ebook/dp/B0052TNZBK/

  4. Vicki Gray says:

    As the events currently unfolding in the Holy Land – continued occupation, peaceful resistance, rage-inducing provocations, violence, death – should make clear, the time for the cheap grace of see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil “even-handedness,” “bridge-building,” and “dialogue” has long since passed. It is time for costly solidarity with the suffering Palestinians, time to name the injustice of the ever-tightening grip of occupation and settlement, time to raise our voice and act, time to redeem our vow to seek justice and respect the dignity of every human being. After we have done that. let us pray.

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