The Ongoing Plight of Jerusalem’s Christians


The ongoing plight of Jerusalem’s Christians is receiving renewed attention in the media. This article, published by the American Conservative, links the recent arson attack at the Garden of Gethsemane to a concerted campaign by radical groups to drive Christians from the Holy Land. A spate of similar attacks over the last decade have resulted in very few convictions, with police reluctant to acknowledge any political or religious motivation behind crimes targeting Christians. At the other end of the wedge are attempts by the same radical groups to fraudulently acquire church property in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem. If these attempts are successful it would fundamentally alter the Christian character of the ancient city, which in turn undermines the continued presence of Christians in the Holy Land.


The ICoHS December Newsletter

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength” Isaiah 40:31


Dear Patron,

At the end of 2020 we look back with mixed feelings on the past year. The International Community of the Holy Sepulchre started this year with exciting plans to strengthen churches in the region and support them as they extend their ministries and enrich local communities in the Holy Land.

Due to travel and other Covid19 restrictions, many of our planned activities became virtual. We were happy to connect with many hundreds of people around the global through our digital events.

During these events we felt it important to highlight the impact of the pandemic in the Holy Land.

Covid19 brought life in the Holy Land to a stop. Since no pilgrims can visit the region, many Christians have lost their livelihoods. Thank you for supporting them through ICOHS’s Hope for the Holy Land Campaign around Easter and the virtual Bethlehem Star Event last month through which we were able to raise funding to support the local church and to contribute to the daily needs of many families in the Holy Land.

As our International Community of the Holy Sepulchre grows, we are happy to welcome many members from South America and therefore, this monthly newsletter is now also available in Spanish. We plan to translate our website in Spanish too in the coming months to enlarge our engagement.

Our CEO’s Christmas Address

In 2021 we hope to travel again to the Holy Land. We are making plans to organize an ICoHS Summit in September in the UK, Brussels and US and will inform you accordingly.

While we cannot travel yet, we want to continue sharing information about the realities on the ground for the Christians in this part of the world. We hope to share every month a virtual experience of one of the Feast of the Holy Land to connect our international community with the local churches.

Thank you again for your prayers and support during 2020.

On behalf of ICoHS, I wish you a blessed New Year.

Anita Delhaas- van Dijk

Chief Executive

Attack on Gethsemane Church “seeks to drive Christians from the Holy Land”


The most senior Christian leader in Jerusalem has described Friday’s arson attack on the Church of Gethsemane as “a crime inspired by an extreme ideology that seeks to drive Christians from the Holy Land.”

His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem, condemned the attack carried out by a 49 year old Israeli radical. The man was restrained on site by the Church guard and Muslim and Christian bystanders, before being arrested by Israeli police.

On Friday 4 December the man entered the church at the Garden of Gethsemane on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives, and poured a flammable liquid which he set fire to. A Byzantine floor mosaic and wooden pews were damaged in the fire, which was extinguished before causing widespread destruction or injury.

The Custody of the Holy Land is the body responsible for the protection of Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. Fr Ibrahim Faltas from the Custody called the attack “a crime, a crime that shouldn’t happen in a church in the Holy Land.”

Patriarch Theophilos, who has repeatedly called for greater protection for Christian sites in the Holy Land, added “I call on the international community to take its role in protecting Christian shrines, and preserving the indigenous Christian presence in the Holy Land.”

Only last week, the Patriarch appeared at online events in Westminster and Washington DC to promote this message. On Thursday 2 December he spoke to a US State Department conference, hosted by US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback. On Monday 30 November, the Patriarch was a guest of honour at the inaugural meeting of a new All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Christianity in the Holy Land in the UK Parliament.

Commenting on the attack on the Gethsemane Church, the Chair of the new APPG, Steve Double MP, said: “This attack at a site of great significance to Christians worldwide reveals the threat that radical groups pose. Incidents like this demonstrate why we have established a new APPG on Christianity in the Holy Land to help ensure it remains a place where Christians can continue to live, flourish and thrive.”

Anita Delhaas, Chief Executive of the International Community of the Holy Sepulchre, an organisation established to support the churches of the Holy Land, said “Christians in the Holy Land face many challenges to preserve their ancient heritage and present livelihoods. More than ever, Holy Land Christians need friends, supporters and advocates in Europe and America to speak up and take action to prevent incidents like this from happening in the first place.”

Condemnation of the attack has also come from the Jewish community. Rabbi David Mason, a trustee of the Council of Christians and Jews, said “We deplore this attack on a Christian Holy Site in Jerusalem. Jewish people around the world stand in solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters wherever they face persecution because of their faith. Attacks like this redouble our efforts to improve relations between faith communities and build societies based on peaceful coexistence.”

For all enquiries contact Will Neal: wn@zennoradvisory.com


Ceremony of Holy Fire in a Pandemic: A Beacon of Hope

Like much of the world, the Holy Land has felt the impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Lockdowns, economic downturns, and the near-instant evaporation of the tourism and hospitality industry have come to define 2020, but the experience of Jerusalem’s Christians has been unique.

This year, the Christian community of the Holy Land celebrated Easter Sunday at home, in common with the rest of the world. But Jerusalem would normally be packed with Christian pilgrims from around the world. Their absence was most noticeable during the Ceremony of Holy Fire, an annual celebration in which Patriarch Theophilos III enters the tomb of Christ with unlit candles and emerges with a holy fire.

In an article describing this year’s celebration, National Geographic documented the ceremony, held in a near-empty church, for the first time since 1349 when the Black Death spread across the globe. The magazine’s powerful side-by-side photographs compares Easter 2020 with years past. It is a powerful reminder of the impact the pandemic has had on the ways in which we worship.

Although faithful pilgrims could not witness the emergence of the Patriarch from the Edicule with the holy fire in person, the world was able to watch the ceremony unfold on their phones, tablets, and computers. Just as it has for centuries, the fire emerged from the Edicule and made its way out of Jerusalem, where cars and planes carried it to other parts of the world. National Geographic reports:

“As it has for centuries, the Holy Fire this year was also dispatched to the far-flung corners of the Orthodox world. Lanterns containing the flame were bundled into cars and driven to Gaza, Ramallah, Bethlehem, and border crossings with Egypt and Jordan. From Jordan, the flame ignited in Jerusalem will likely go on to the small Christian communities deep inside the war zones of Syria and Iraq.

The Holy Fire also travels by air to other countries…this year, however, with the coordination of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, 10 planes—one for each of 10 countries: Greece, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Cyprus, Romania, Moldova, Belarus, and Poland—sat on the tarmac at Ben Gurion airport, a remarkable sight at a time when the country is usually receiving only one or two flights a day.”

The disruptive nature of this global pandemic is felt strongly in Jerusalem, where history runs deep. Church leaders in Jerusalem have had to adapt services and traditions spanning centuries to the new reality we find ourselves in. And in doing so, they showed the world that the resurrection is a beacon of hope in a dark world.

That is worth celebrating, no matter what part of the world we find ourselves in.    

Ceremony of Holy Fire in a Pandemic: A Beacon of Hope

Like much of the world, the Holy Land has felt the impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Lockdowns, economic downturns, and the near-instant evaporation of the tourism and hospitality industry have come to define 2020, but the experience of Jerusalem’s Christians has been unique.

This year, the Christian community of the Holy Land celebrated Easter Sunday at home, in common with the rest of the world. But Jerusalem would normally be packed with Christian pilgrims from around the world. Their absence was most noticeable during the Ceremony of Holy Fire, an annual celebration in which Patriarch Theophilos III enters the tomb of Christ with unlit candles and emerges with a holy fire.

In an article describing this year’s celebration, National Geographic documented the ceremony, held in a near-empty church, for the first time since 1349 when the Black Death spread across the globe. The magazine’s powerful side-by-side photographs compares Easter 2020 with years past. It is a powerful reminder of the impact the pandemic has had on the ways in which we worship.

Although faithful pilgrims could not witness the emergence of the Patriarch from the Edicule with the holy fire in person, the world was able to watch the ceremony unfold on their phones, tablets, and computers. Just as it has for centuries, the fire emerged from the Edicule and made its way out of Jerusalem, where cars and planes carried it to other parts of the world. National Geographic reports:

“As it has for centuries, the Holy Fire this year was also dispatched to the far-flung corners of the Orthodox world. Lanterns containing the flame were bundled into cars and driven to Gaza, Ramallah, Bethlehem, and border crossings with Egypt and Jordan. From Jordan, the flame ignited in Jerusalem will likely go on to the small Christian communities deep inside the war zones of Syria and Iraq.

The Holy Fire also travels by air to other countries…this year, however, with the coordination of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, 10 planes—one for each of 10 countries: Greece, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Cyprus, Romania, Moldova, Belarus, and Poland—sat on the tarmac at Ben Gurion airport, a remarkable sight at a time when the country is usually receiving only one or two flights a day.”

The disruptive nature of this global pandemic is felt strongly in Jerusalem, where history runs deep. Church leaders in Jerusalem have had to adapt services and traditions spanning centuries to the new reality we find ourselves in. And in doing so, they showed the world that the resurrection is a beacon of hope in a dark world.

That is worth celebrating, no matter what part of the world we find ourselves in.    

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