Monks of Deir El Soltan Monastery in Eastern Jerusalem after the Israeli police assaulted them during a peaceful protest. October 24, 2018.
CAIRO - 24 September 2018: Israeli police forces assaulted Egyptian monks affiliated with the Coptic Orthodox Church on Oct. 24 in the Old City of Jerusalem as they were protesting in front of Deir El Sultan Monastery which is part of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The monks were protesting because the Israeli government banned them from renovating the church while the municipality has been restoring a chapel on the monastery's roof affiliated with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church without the approval of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
“The police besieged the monks while protesting. They hit and pushed them, and arrested one of them. They forcibly dragged them away and let municipality workers enter the church to do the renovation,” an eye witness said.
Israeli police arrest monk Macarius of Jerusalem in front of Deir El Sultan Monastery. October 24, 2018.
The Islamic-Christian Association for Jerusalem and Holy Sites denounced the act as Eastern Jerusalem is considered an international city under the 1947 UN Partition Plan, and thus, Israeli forces have no right to enter the place.
The majority of UN-member states and international organizations do not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over Eastern Jerusalem. Israel captured the city during the Six-day War in 1967.
The association asked the Egyptian government and the Christian world to intervene and urge Israeli authorities to stop such violations and not entering the monastery on the pretext of carrying out renovation because that is the exclusive responsibility of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Furthermore, the Foreign Ministry of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fattah movement denounced the Israeli “barbarism” and “racism.”
Coptic Bishop of Jerusalem and the Holy Land Antonius affirmed in statements to the press that that Deir El Sultan is owned by Egypt and the Coptic Orthodox Church since the seventh century, and that there are 23 royal documents that prove the ownership.
Coptic Bishop of Jerusalem and the Holy Land Antonius
The bishop stated that Israeli forces assaulted the monks participating in the peaceful protest against the Israeli authorities’ insistence to renovate the monastery without receiving the church’s permission or allowing its participation.
Bishop Antonius also revealed the Coptic Orthodox Church’s ownership of the monastery was upheld by five judges after the Israeli authorities took off the establishment’s gates in 1970. Although the church won the lawsuit, the ruling has not been put into effect till present.
The bishop explained that the church hired a company to renovate the Chapel of the Angel located in the monastery but the Israeli authorities banned the workers from entering the place insisting to solely undertake the task. He also revealed that the Maronic Church has taken over an integral part of the Church of the Angel while carrying out renovation.
Bishop Antonius said that the protest came in parallel to Israeli authorities’ attempt to enter renovation material inside the monastery without the church’s approval. The bishop stated that he is in continuous contact with the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv and Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria to follow up on updates.
Bishop Antonius stressed that the monastery will resort to the judiciary and take legal action in addition to seeking help for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to resolve the crisis in a diplomatic manner saying, “the Coptic Orthodox Church will never abandon the monastery as it is a genuine ownership of Egypt and the Egyptians.”
The bishop stated that monk Macarius of Jerusalem was released after he was arrested and beaten by the Israeli police expressing his gratitude for President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Foreign Minister Sameh Shokry, and the Egyptian diplomacy for the following up on the situation. He added that the church will not be able to resort to the International Court of Justice as it is only concerned with conflicts between states.
Bishop Antonius finally stated that all priests of the Holy Synod worldwide are in contact with him to receive the updates.
Additional reporting by Ahmed Gomaa and Wael Rabie