Visitor Limit for Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a “Flagrant Violation” of Palestinian Rights

Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Interior Minister Omer Bar-Lev have been told that the decision to limit the number of Christians visiting Jerusalem’s historic Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a “flagrant violation” of Palestinian rights.

The Jerusalem’s historic Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Photo: Wikimedia)

“Imposing restrictions and limiting the number of worshippers to 1,000 during the celebration of Holy Saturday at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a flagrant violation of the freedom of worship and the right to practice one’s religion,” said the parliamentarians of the Joint List bloc in the Knesset. “It is also a new chapter in the series of Israeli violations of Palestinian rights.”

Bennett’s government, they added, does not spare any effort to limit Palestinian participation in activities taking place in Jerusalem as it attempts to separate the holy city from the other occupied Palestinian territories.

“Holy Saturday is one of the holiest days for Christians, and the occupation government does not have the right to prevent worshippers from going to the church or to impose restrictions on them,” insisted the Joint List MKs. “East Jerusalem, with its Muslim and Christian holy sites, is occupied Palestinian territory. The Israeli government must stop its suppressive interventions and withdraw from it.”

According to a letter disseminated this week by the Patriarchate ahead of Easter, the police have asked that only 1,000 people enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for the Holy Fire ritual, although it is customary for many thousands of worshippers to attend. It has also said that only 500 people can enter the Old City and reach the Patriarchate yards and the overlooking roof of the Holy Sepulchre Church. The Patriarchate claimed that “having access to churches in the Old City, especially during Easter holidays” has become increasingly difficult in recent years, and said that “there is no justification” for the additional restrictions put into place this year.

The Holy Sepulchre church is the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried. During the ceremony, participants witness a flame that appears to emerge above his tomb. The event takes place each year on the Saturday before Orthodox Easter which this year falls on April 24.