Who Holds the Key to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre?

Daniel Carvalheiro-Santos, Staff Writer

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The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a religious site that has been particularly prone to feuds between different “religions”, is considered to be the holiest church in all Christendom. Being that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located in Jerusalem, you would expect these feuds that were previously mentioned to be among the three major religious denominations in Israel’s capital city: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. However, this time the fight is different. For centuries, these feuds that have occurred among the different sects of Christianity that want to put claim to this holy site, most notably Armenian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, and Roman Catholic. To resolve this centuries old dispute, the ruler of Jerusalem handed the keys to this most holy site, reported to be the location where Jesus Christ was buried and crucified, over to a Muslim family.

The year was 1187 and Jerusalem was in the midst of one of its most violent feuds: Christians vs. Christians. These disputes between the Armenian, Roman Catholic, and Greek Orthodox Christian denominations angered the Muslim ruler of Jerusalem, the infamous Saladin. To ease the tensions that had boiled to violent conflicts, plaguing the streets of Jerusalem, Saladin decided to hand the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to the Sunni Muslim Joudeh family. To this day, this family possesses the only key that opens the enormous wooden doors that have protected the holy shrine for centuries. The current key-holder, Adeeb Joudeh, respects the Christian religion, yet refuses to pray in this holy Christian pilgrimage site. Despite his Muslim affiliation, he remains reverent towards the Christian religions. Joudeh enjoys his job and is interested in perpetuating his family legacy, carefully documented by previous generations.  This artifact etched in golden ink proudly decorates his humble home. Joudeh’s history is a testament to the fact that despite many religious differences, Christians and Muslims are able to coexist in a society, regardless of the discrimination and prejudice that affect both communities.

Photo Credits to Inter Press Services

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