ianyan magazine
Dec 28 2011

That's the Spirit: Armenian and Greek Orthodox Monks in Broom Fight
Society - By Liana Aghajanian

In the spirit of holiday giving, Armenian and Greek Orthodox Monks
took it upon themselves to exchange gifts, except they weren't the
kind of presents you would normally expect. Around 100 priests hurled
brooms at each other in Bethlehem's Church of Nativity as they were
cleaning the church in preparation for Orthodox Christmas, which both
cultural groups celebrate.

The outburst, broken up by baton and shield-wielding Palestinian
police, came to head as the Greek Orthodox and Armenian clerics, who
each control a portion of the church along with Roman Catholics,
believed to be built over the cave that marks the birthplace of Jesus,
got into the scuffle over a `turf war.'

Bethlehem police Lt-Col Khaled al-Tamimi was quoted in Reuters as
saying that no one was arrested `because all those involved were men
of God' while the BBC reported that the 1,700-year-old church is in
bad shape because priests can't agree on who should be footing the
bill for its repair.

The rotting roof timbers have not been replaced since the 19th century
and due to rainwater seepage, there is a chance of an electrical
short-circuit and fire, according to the historical preservation
organization, World Monuments Fund, who sees an agreement between the
three keepers of the church as the only solution to its repair:

For the site to be preserved, its three custodians - the Greek Orthodox
Church, the Armenian Orthodox Church, and the Franciscan order - would
have to coordinate their efforts, but such a collaboration has not
occurred in nearly a thousand years.

The WMF reports that an agreement was reached in September 2010 to
restore the church's roof, the first of its kind, funded by the
Palestinian authority.

The ironically timed priestly brawl is a common occurrence. In 2008,
Armenian and Greek Orthodox monks went head to head at the Church of
the Holy Sepulchre, known as the site of Jesus' crucifixion. The
Greeks blamed the Armenians for not recognizing their rights, while
Armenians said Greeks had violated a traditional ceremony their clergy
attempted to place one of their monks inside the Edicule, a structure
said to encase the tomb of Jesus, reported the BBC. Unlike today's
battle, four monks were detained by police in the fight.