PA tells Israel: Restricting churchgoers ‘blatant and dangerous challenge’

Nabil Abu Rudeineh named the restrictions "a war against the Palestinian people."

 Orthodox Christian worshippers attend the Holy Fire ceremony amid eased coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City, May 1, 2021.  (photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
Orthodox Christian worshippers attend the Holy Fire ceremony amid eased coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City, May 1, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)

A spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority warned this week that limiting the entry of Christian worshippers to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Saturday night and Sunday for the Holy Fire and Easter ceremonies was a “blatant and dangerous challenge to the heavenly religions and their sanctities.”

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the President's spokesperson, made the statements on Thursday. They were largely quoted by Palestinian media. 

Nabil Abu Rudeineh (Credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)Nabil Abu Rudeineh (Credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)

Israel has said it will limit the number of people allowed to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for the Holy Fire ceremony this year to 1,000 and that only 500 more people would be allowed to enter the Old City and reach the Patriarchate yards and the overlooking roof of the Holy Sepulchre Church. The church leadership appealed to the international community and the Israeli president. The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem even called on worshippers to ignore the mandate and attend services anyway.

Rudeineh linked Israel’s decision about the church to recent escalations on the Temple Mount, saying that the move was a “continuation of the Israeli escalation against the city of Jerusalem and its sanctities, and another violation of the historical situation existing in the Holy City.”

He said, “All Israeli measures, whether in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or other religious places are rejected, condemned and illegitimate, and are a violation of international law.”

He declared the restrictions a “war against the Palestinian people, Jerusalem and its sanctities.”

For several days already, hundreds of Palestinian rioters and lawbreakers have been carrying out massive order violations on the Temple Mount, which have included fortifications, stone-throwing and fireworks, Israel Police said.

This year, Passover, Easter and Ramadan coincided for the first time in more than three decades. Christians who follow the Gregorian Easter celebrated Easter on April 17, while those who follow the Julian calendar will celebrate on April 24 - the holiday beginning at sundown with the Holy Fire ceremony on April 23.