Intifada Exclusive Interview with his Eminence
Archbishop Theodosios "Atallah Hanna"
Archbishop of Sebastia
Greek Orthodox Patriarchate Of Jerusalem
"For those who use the Bible to
support Israel need to differentiate between God promise and Balfour
promise, because the occupation is the result of a promise given to the
Israelis by Lord Balfour and not by God." Archbishop Theodosios
Elias Harb: Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Eli Wiesel has claimed in varies publications that Jews, Christians and Muslims are able to build their homes anywhere in Jerusalem and that only under Israeli sovereignty had freedom of worship for all religions been assured in the city. How do you respond to that?
Archbishop Theodosios: The facts on the ground say exactly the opposite, more and more Muslims and Christians are having great difficulties in entering the city. We see thousands are denied the entry to their holiest sites. The Israelis authorities are even preventing the Arab Jerusalemites from entering the Holy sepulcher and the Aqsa mosque on major religious feasts. It is very apparent that the Israelis want Jerusalem to themselves and they do not want to share it with others. It is a big pity that the city of peace, which must symbolizes brotherhood and love to be transformed into a symbol of hatred and division because of Israeli actions.
EH: How has the Israeli Occupation affected Palestinians living from the west bank right to worship and visit the Holy Places in Jerusalem? What is the importance of Jerusalem to the Palestinians? Could be there a state for the Palestinians without Jerusalem as its capital? How Israel developments projects changed the features of the holy land?
AT: Let me be clear on this subject, there will be no Palestine without Jerusalem as its capital. It is ridicules to imagine Palestine without Jerusalem, because it beats in the heart of every Palestinian. In addition to that, Israel tries to change the features of Jerusalem through its development projects like the light train, the malls or the parks. They are trying to make the Palestinians foreigners in their own city. According to international law, Jerusalem is still an occupied city, thus it has no right to change anything in it. Whatever was the final agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the Palestinians should have the free right to enter their city without any restrictions, and also they must have the right to live in it, build their homes and reside in it without the interference of anyone. The Palestinians in Jerusalem are in their city and country not a stranger. The treatment of the Palestinian as a outsider is by itself a racist action.
EH: Many people around are unaware of the dwindling Christian
population in the Holy land. How critical is this situation and what
will happen to the future of Christianity in the Holy Land?
AT: First of all, I should stress on the fact that the Christian Palestinians were here since Jesus times, where in the Books of Acts in the bible it was mentioned that there were Arabs listening to the Apostles in Jerusalem. Christians Arabs had and still have a big effect in the development of the Arab societies in the Middle East. We are not visitors or strangers to Palestine. Our history is deeply rooted in this area of the world. On the other hand, our numbers are dwindling due to the occupation and the bitter reality it is causing. But we are not afraid that Christians will disappear from Palestine, because there will be always Christians in Palestine to continue the message of Jesus Christ.
EH: Main Evangelical Christians in U.S. and western countries
believe that the emergence of the state of Israel is promised by God.
They support Israel financially. What is the Orthodox Church's position
on this matter?
AT: The Orthodox Church as all churches in the Holy Land refuses to give excuses from the bible for the unjust treatment of the Palestinian people.
I am very sorry to hear about some religious groups in the United States that support the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Such support cannot be justified from a Christian point of view because Christianity is against any sort of occupation and the injustice in it all forms and rationalization.
These groups need to re-read their bible, because the bible calls us to stand with the marginalized and the oppressed and not with the oppressors.