Following a series of violent incidents between Palestinians and the Israeli police and religious Jews outside the Old City, King Abdullah II of Jordan met with religious and church leaders in Jerusalem to reassure them of the royal family’s stewardship over the city’s holy sites.
During the meeting, King Abdullah emphasized the historic and religious responsibility of the Hashemite Custodianship to protect and defend Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem,
“We do not accept any compromise over Jerusalem and the holy sites,” he said.
Also present were representatives from the Jerusalem Endowment Fund, an organization tasked with strengthening the economic and educational status of Palestinians in Jerusalem and bolstering the city’s Arab identity. The organization’s president, Abdul Azim Salhab, sent greetings from Jerusalem to the king, commended the Hashemite tradition of safeguarding Holy sites and encouraged the Muslim nation of Jordan to support Abdullah’s efforts.
Jerusalem Grand Mufti Mohammad Hussein said that Palestinians in Jerusalem and the Palestinian leadership – including President Mahmoud Abbas – value the “pivotal role of His Majesty King Abdullah II in guarding and caring for the Holy sites, standing always in the first row in defense of the Holy City, its civilization and its history.” He also commended the king for his ongoing efforts to bring international attention to Jerusalem.
Also in attendance was Patriarch Theophilos III of the Orthodox Churches in the Holy Land and Jordan, who expressed his gratitude to King Abdullah and Jordan for its role in protecting Jerusalem’s Christian presence and historic identity.
“Your Majesty inherits and guards the Covenant of Omar ibn Al Khattab to our predecessor, Patriarch Sophronios, with its 1,400 years of guardianship of the rights of the churches,” he said.
“This is the authentic example we have been living, under the Hashemite Custodianship in Jerusalem and in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and is of great encouragement and support to us, especially at a time when the Christian presence in the Holy Land – so vital to the historic and peaceful coexistence within our region – is facing new and serious challenges,” he added.
Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Jerusalem’s Latin patriarch, emphasized the historic role of Jordan in protecting Jerusalem and its protection of Christian holy sites. He also promoted interfaith harmony, coexistence of Arab Christians and Muslims in Jerusalem and practice of religious freedom.
“It is important to reiterate the historical and actual role that the Hashemite House plays for the city of Jerusalem, as a guarantor of the equality of all its citizens, of all faiths, who have in their holy places, places of prayer, of welcome, of peaceful encounter and not a battleground,” he said.
He said that King Abdullah’s strong voice is a call “to achieve justice and peace,” adding that the king’s openness has helped create a community where Christians and Muslims have become partners both in citizenship and destiny.
The Jordanian guardianship over the Islamic and Christian holy sites in the city of Jerusalem began during the era of the late King Abdullah bin Al-Hussein I, the late founder of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and continues to this day.