It’s Not Just Us

Of course, Jews hold no monopoly on inter-denominational strife, but it was still eye-opening to read my friend Benjy Balint’s new article about the power struggle over the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Back in 1869, Mark Twain visited and noticed the denominations chanting, sometimes simultaneously, in their own languages: “It has been proven conclusively that they can not worship together around the grave of the Saviour of the World in peace.” And the cease-fire’s fragility persists to this day.

Five years ago, Ethiopians, exiled since 1658 to quarters on the roof, resented the placement of a Coptic priest’s chair there, and the ensuing brawl sent 11 monks–seven Ethiopians and four Copts–to the hospital. A couple of years later, Greek clerics tussled with Franciscans. (MORE)

Perhaps the most interesting part of the article (aside for Edmund Wilson’s assertion that the church “probably contains more bad taste, certainly more kinds of bad taste, than any other church in the world”) is one of the solutions to managing the divisions.

What do you do if Christian groups can’t figure out how to run a church? Put the Muslims in control: “To prevent denominational disputes, the very keys to the church have since the days of Saladin been entrusted to Muslims from the Nuseibeh and Joudeh families.”


Maybe we should ask the Hindus to solve the agunah problem.

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