Greek Orthodox and Armenian worshipers got down to fisticuffs Sunday Nov. 9 in East Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christian denominations jealously guard their divided areas of the traditional site of the crucifixion. Dozens of worshipers dressed in denominational vestments traded kicks and punches, knocking down tapestries and toppling decorations. Israeli police entered the shrine, and two clerics were arrested.
The brawl erupted during the Feast of the Cross—a ceremony in which Armenians commemorate the fabled fourth-century discovery of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. The fight began when Armenian clergy were holding a procession, and Greek clergy demanded one of their monks present—for fear the procession could undermine their claim to a patch of the ancient structure. The two sides could not agree, and when the Armenians tried to begin the procession, the Greek monks stepped in and the fighting began, AP reported. “We were keeping resistance so that the procession could not pass through…and establish a right that they don’t have,” said a young Greek Orthodox monk with a cut next to his left eye. (CNN, AP, Nov. 9)