Muslims have seized two rooms in Jerusalem's Old City from the Greek Orthodox, violating the long-standing territorial status quo between Christians and Muslims.
Officials at the Greek Orthodox patriarchate discovered in April that an apartment belonging to the patriarchate had been broken into by workers from the neighboring El Khanqa mosque. The workers had broken down a dividing wall, emptied two small storage rooms of their contents, and bricked up the entrance to both rooms, effectively annexing the space to the mosque.
Metropolitan Timothy, secretary to the patriarchate, says he is mystified at such behavior. "We have always had excellent relations," he says, adding that the Old City has been considered a model of Christian-Muslim cooperation.
Both the patriarchate and the mosque claim title to the grounds on which the mosque stands. The existing regulations on property ownership and occupancy of Old City religious sites are known as the status quo laws, developed in the nineteenth century.
"They asked nobody. They have no rights to do this," Timothy says. "This action shows a basic lack of respect for the Greek Orthodox and for the rule of law."
The area in question is in the entryway to the mosque. The wall has been freshly clad with stone, erasing all trace of the apartment's entrance.
The mosque and the Muslim Authority say they have done nothing wrong. But one worker told CT he had removed the wall with his own hands.
"We needed the space," he says. "What could we do, ask for a building permit? We would never get one! We are Arab, and this is a mosque."1
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