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Monks in punch-up on roof of Holy Sepulchre

07.08.2002 | Source:



Israeli police separate monks attacking each other with iron bars and stones
The roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem has been a hotly contended spot for the best part of a quarter of a millennium.

The site of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection, the church and its roof are used by several denominations, among them Ethiopian Orthodox and Egyptian Copts. The Ethiopians, having been removed from the main monastery downstairs in a long, gradual process lasting centuries, are confined to some African-style huts on the rooftop. An Egyptian Coptic monk keeps guard over the rooftop from a critically-placed chair, controlling the space the Ethiopians use.

The space is very well defined in a document drawn up in 1757, which sets out the proprietorship of each and every stone, chapel, hut and lamp inside and on the rooftop of the complex.

On a particularly warm day in the last week of July, the Egyptian decided to move his chair out of the sun, occupying a stone which did not belong to his denomination. Days of rising tempers ended up in a pitched battle of the rooftop, with monks hurling stones and each other, screaming obscenities and bashing each other with iron bars.

The Israeli police were called in to stop the fracas, which left 11 monks injured, one seriously. The Egyptians complained that the Ethopians sparked off the confrontation by insulting the monk sitting in a chair, poking him and (the worst crime of all) he was pinched by a woman. The scene of extreme rivalry between Christian sects over the centuries, this site has been described as “The most UnChristian Place in the World”.



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