It is not very often we hear of successful long-term agreement with any group that has different opinions, especially when it comes to religion. We all know, or at least have hard, the many stories from the crusades of violence from Christian to Christian(which goes against almost every principle of the bible). But, in Jerusalem, at the Holy Church of the Sepulchre, it seems an agreement put in place over 150 years ago, has largely been adhered to.
Today the Holy Sepulcher in the hands of six Christian denominations: The headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, represented by the Franciscan Order, and the Armenian Apostolic Church
In the 19th Century came the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, the Copts and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. They got only a few small shrine and tasks simply because they had not spent the same amount of time at the Church. There was obviously huge resentment and anger from the churches that were seen as the original minders of the Church, but over time all seemed to find their own place within this tiny community.
The Ethiopians live in a small group on the roof of the church. The Deir al-Sultan monastery, which is claimed by the Copts is in danger of collapse since 2004. The dispute, however, prevents the needed renovations from taking place. This further outlines the complicated and sometimes impractical procedures in place for making decisions between all churches there.
The Joudeh Muslim family have been the gate-keepers of the church for several centuries. The Nusseibeh Muslim family also holds the keys to the main door in the morning and evening. Whenever disputes get out of hand, or there are clashes and violence involved between the churches, the Israeli authorities nearly always adhere to the status quo agreement. This complicated ownership agreement makes construction work and other essential workings on the church almost impossible, because any change could cause a violation of the the status quo agreement and be seen to weaken the rights o one group or another.
For example, a long wooden ladder now rests on the facade above the main door, which no one can remove. It has been left there for well over 100 years because there was a bitter dispute about it. Regulations also govern the allocated times each religion has for services, and where the services should take place. There is always extra tensions around on occasions such as Easter, when nearly all churches celebrate the resurrection.