Thousands of Orthodox Christians were denied access to Mount Tabor, in the Lower Galilee, site of the Transfiguration of Jesus. Israeli police blocked the road as the faithful were on their way to the holy site on Friday, 18 August 2023.
No less than 1000 cars waited at multiple checkpoints setup by the Israeli police, and were consequently delayed for two and a half hours. Among those who were stopped was Dr. Audeh Quawas, Executive Committee Member of the World Council of Churches.
The faithful were surprised that a ban was issued to prevent assembly on Mount Tabor and the open area, and that the police cited safety concerns for the participants. A few days previously, a meeting took place between the Orthodox Council in Nazareth and the Israeli authorities, where it was agreed that the event would take place.
Impediment of the Christian celebration on Mount Tabor comes in the aftermath of repeated harassment of Christians in Jerusalem, Haifa and elsewhere. The heads of the local churches in Jerusalem have been issuing statements asking for support, and for the protection of the indigenous Christian presence.
The World Council of Churches views with concern the infringement on religious freedom, the denial of worship, and the constraints on the life of the Christian community in the Holy Land under the pretext of safety and security as unacceptable. The World Council of Churches calls upon the Government of Israel to allow Christian worship and community events to proceed freely, and to protect the rights of religious freedom for all people.
21 August 2023
Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay
World Council of Churches