Tensions are rising in the Old City: A clash broke out Sunday between Greek-Orthodox and Armenian worshippers at the Church of Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, during the closing of the Christian Palm Sunday. Police officers present at the scene separated between them. None of the 20 people present were injured.
Two Armenian worshippers were held up by the police and taken in for questioning, after which they were released. At the end of the prayer service, a few dozen worshippers arrived near the David Police Precinct station in the Old City to protest against their friends’ arrest.
No riots were reported at the scene.Police forces were deployed so as to prevent further incidents of violence. The demonstration dispersed as soon as the detainees were released.
Police forces are vigilant in preparation for the Holy Saturday festival observed by the Christians every year after Easter. The ceremony, has been known to cause tensions between the Greeks and Armenians for years, and the same is expected this year, especially in light of Sunday’s incident.
Head of operations at the National Police Headquarters, Major General Yoram Ochayon, told Ynet that the Jerusalem police are preparing for Holy Saturday, during which 20,000 people are expected to visit the Church of Holy Sepulchre.
During the ceremony a flame is lit by a sun beam penetrating the narrow aperture in the church’s ceiling. In recent years, the service has become a Bone of contention between the Christian denominations, as each one tries to be the first one to have its leader carry the flame outside the church.
Two years ago, the police deployed 3,000 officers around the church because of the controversial service. The 2006 event ended without clashes or injuries, but nine people passed out due to the crowdedness and required medical attention.