Israeli President Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin paid a visit to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem on Tuesday 14th of April 2015. This visit is a brand reconnection with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, at least at the level of the Presidency of the State of Israel. He is the first top-leader of the Hebrew State to come to the Old City compound since a long time. As far as I remember, nor Pres. Katzav or Peres had ever come because of the internal troubles we have been going through over the past decade. The deposition of former patriarch Irenaios who had been recognized quite lately, the new election of Patriarch Theophilos on 22 of August 2005, his enthronement on November 22, 2005 confirmed by Jordan by not accepted by Israel. In between, we had to face a lot of issues, due to the inner composition of the Greek Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher, the hierarchs. Worrying situations had to be settled in terms of leaders, bishops, priests and a total redistribution of the roles while things had to be considered adequately in Jordan, with the Palestinian Authorities, the Arab clergy people. The relationships of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem had also to be revvied and redefined with the other Christian denominations that are present in the Holy Sepulcher as well as in the traditional territory of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem as the Mother of All the Churches.
Things have been widely covered and piloted from Constantinople with the assistance of the Greek government, in times of terrible hardships that do affect the Church of Jerusalem.
Just have a real look at our services and Feasts at the Holy Sepulcher: Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem and All Palestine has kept his first ranking leadership among all the Churches present in the Holy Land. This leading position his often challenged or questioned by other Churches, in particular the Catholics and some other Orthodox as the Russian Orthodox Church of Moscow that does respect the position in the name of a long and stable tradition, but many would like to either take the lead or impose their views and presence in different ways (number of pilgrims, guest-houses, monasteries). On the other hand, the Greek Orthodox is rather the Rum (Roman) Orthodox Church whose task will be over the coming decades to open up to the Arab world and the appointment of bishops, develop a true respect and equality with the Arab clergy and lay people all over Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Whatsoever, the Hellenistic culture, theological experience may seem a bit "fenced" and "nationalistic" in the region, the clergy arrived from very specific areas of Greece, due to a high level of faith, faithfulness to Orthodoxy and the many descendants of those Greek Orthodox who had been killed during the 1915 mass murders in the Near-East. The Greek Orthodox of Jerusalem should and will certainly overtime play an important cultural and strategical role in the life of all the Christian Churches. I always think of the possibility for the Orthodox Churches to abide together at the Patriarchate and create a pan-Orthodox body that could help all the believers.
The visit of new President Rivlin shows his personal interest and concern for the existence of all religious communities in the State of Israel, under the realm of the Jewish State. This is quite new for the Churches whose theological positions hardly evolved toward modernity and the acceptance of the return of the Jews, their in-gathering and the emergence of a Jewish State of Israel, for the first time since the coming of Jesus Christ. This is brand new and the communities have to cope with each other and recognize each other.
President Rivlin also shows that Israel will ensure the protection of the Christian communities whose first representative is the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, as by the time of Patriarch Sophronios. There are different interests, basically the Greeks have a huge experience throughout the ages of how to overcome all sorts of control and State structure. It is not evident for the local faithful to understand how important this know-how can be in the Mid-Eastern context.
President Rivlin is also an in-born Israeli - born to a family that has been in the country for many generations. He does and will respect all the denominations and the Christians, still provided that they be trustworthy and accept the reality of the presence and control of the Israeli State. This will take some time.
(c) Ioannis, Holylandphotos