Muslim guardians of Jerusalem's holy church

JERUSALEM: In the heart of the Holy Land stands an epitome of inter-faith harmony, the Holy Sepulcher Church, managed by a Muslim man named Adeeb Joudeh Al-Husseini.

Adeeb is the key-holder of the church and of the stamp of the holy tomb. He comes from a family that has been settled in the holy land from the time when Salahuddin Al-Ayubi first set foot in the region. Adeeb and other Muslim families have been the protectors of many churches.

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In an interview with Al Jazeera, Adeeb recounts the story of how his family, the ‘Al-Husseinis’ were entrusted with the guardianship of the Holy Sepulcher Church. He starts talking about his family and the church and takes us back to the 12th Century Common Era (CE).

He says, “The story of my family began in 1187 CE when Salahuddin Ayubi, liberated the city of Jerusalem from the crusaders. The sects agreed and from 1187 CE until today, we have been holding the keys of the Holy Sepulcher”.

Taking pride in his family’s association with the church, he says, “We have preserved it with our blood and soul, it is our second home. My job is not just an honorable job, and it is not just the heritage of my family. As a Muslim family, it is the heritage to all Muslims across the world that a Muslim family has held and preserved the church for 850 years”.

He passionately talks about his childhood and the of the times when he was first given the responsibility to open the doors of the church, “It is a feeling that cannot be described and I envy myself for being the key holder of the church of the Holy Sepulcher. I have been opening the door of the Holy Sepulcher since I was eight years old and today I am 53. For more than 40 years I have had this responsibility. My father gave the seal of the grave when I was 12 years old and I sealed the tomb”.

Adeeb then moves on to talking about his life as a parent and how he is teaching his children the customs that he learnt as a child. “Now I have three children and I have started teaching them. Sometimes I open, sometimes they open. The keys of the Holy Sepulcher are in the custody of the Joudeh Al-Huseini family and hopefully this will last forever”, he says.

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Speaking about the Palestinian territories under Israeli occupation, he says that one does not want to leave the Holy Sepulcher church. It is captive, just like Al-Aqsa mosque and that it is surrounded by hope and prayers, for peace beckoning peace to come to the region.

He remarks that’s from the church of the Holy Sepulcher, the lights of Islamic-Christian peaceful co-existence emerged.

He says, “We lived with them and we have known them since childhood. We are in the same trenches, we had the same pain and suffering, we had the same feeling. These churches are also Arab churches, not just Palestinian. We are not just brothers in ethnicity but in blood as well.”

This article originally appeared in Al Jazeera.

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