Full disclosure: I am not now, and never have been, Christian. I was born and raised, and have lived my entire life, as a religious Jew.
I count some devout Christians among my cherished friends, and have never felt uncomfortable discussing our differences. “Good fences make good neighbors”, as the saying goes, and that applies as much to spiritual life as to physical.
As long as we do not attempt to encroach on each other’s spiritual territories, we can be genuine friends.
So I can say at the outset that I do not believe for a single moment that Jesus will ever come back, he wasn’t and isn’t the messiah, he holds no significance for us as Jews.
And having said this, I was amused at the recent statement by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III concerning Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem Post reported that when he recently met US President Joe Biden, he wrote:
“The main way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is under serious threat from extremist Jewish forces who have targeted the Christian Quarter with the goal of altering the historic, demographic and geographic nature and validity of the site and terminate the Christian presence in the city”.
His letter continues:
“It is saddening that these groups are supported, in part, by right-wing figures in Israel’s political sphere. They are, together, trying to disrupt the longtime status quo in the city”.
It is intriguing that the Patriarch considers a Jewish presence in the Old City of Jerusalem a threat to the demographic nature of the city. He himself was, after all, born in Greece, he is native to Greece, so his own relocation to Jerusalem unequivocally constituted a change to the demographic nature of the city.
Let’s go back a little way. If His Beatitude (the title given to those of patriarchal rank in the Greek Orthodox Church) really opposes altering the historic, demographic and geographic nature and validity of Jerusalem, then he should actively welcome the return of the Jews to the city.
After all, who exactly inhabited Jerusalem when Jesus walked its streets? Greeks? – Well, actually, yes, there was still a Greek community left over from the Greek invasion under Alexander the Great in 333 B.C.E., but those were unarguably foreign interlopers who deliberately altered the historic, demographic and geographic nature and validity of Jerusalem.
Of course there were also Romans, who were just as much a foreign body in Jerusalem and indeed all Israel.
The overwhelming majority of the settled population at the time were of course the Jews, the native indigenous inhabitants of the Land. If the worthy Patriarch believes that changing a country’s demographic by immigration is unacceptable, then maybe he should lead by example.
But while we await the day the His Beatitude boards his plane to return to Greece, let us idly speculate:
His Beatitude of course believes that one day, his lord and savior will return to redeem mankind. So imagine the scenario…
Patriarch Theophilos III is sitting in his conclave in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem; he looks up from his Bible, and sees a Jew, calm and poised, approaching his church.
He immediately arises, holding his crucifix before him as an amulet, and hisses at his lord and savior:
“Begone from me and from this holy place, Jew! I never knew you; depart from me, you that work iniquity! This is no place for a Jew to tread in. Do not attempt to alter the historic, demographic and geographic nature and validity of this site!”
So the Jew who Patriarch Theophilos III refuses to recognize, the Jew who he unceremoniously expels from his place of worship, simply shrugs his shoulders, turns round calmly, and walks away silently.
And His Beatitude Theophilos III doesn’t hear him muttering:
“Alright, I’ll leave you alone. You’d probably want to crucify me again, if you had the opportunity. I’ll go back to my own people, the Jews. At least they are here in Jerusalem legitimately, so if they condemn me, they’ll be justified. Unlike you, interloper.”
Hirsch Lichtmoyl is a free lance writer living in Jerusalem.