It isn't always easy to be a Christian in Jerusalem, as the minority community must navigate complicated relations and sometimes persecution to get around the Holy City.
But with understanding, friendship and advocates, Christians have managed to remain strong and confident in the Jewish state. One such friend and advocate, Daniel Rossing, was a bridge-builder between the religions who brought to light the facets of Jerusalem life for Christians, Jews and Muslims.
Rossing was remembered in a recent symposium, "Jerusalem, the City of the Between," for his tireless efforts regarding interfaith relations in the Holy Land for 35 years before his death due to cancer in November 2010. A panel of Christians and Jews from around Jerusalem spoke at the symposium in his honor, hosted by the Jerusalem Center for Jewish Christian Relations founded by Rossing, on the anniversary month of his death.
Daniel's mission was to get to know the others,” said Armenian Archbishop Aris Shrivanian. “We need many more architects of bridges in this city to close the gaps and bring all these diverse people together. We need love and we need to know our next-door neighbors.”
A task that is not always as simple as it sounds.
This city is a cosmopolitan one. It is the capital of the three main religions. It has many components as its inhabitants: A Jewish majority, Palestinian Arabs who are Muslim and then all the Christian denominations that are considered to be minorities, Shrivanian noted. “The total number of Christians in the Holy Land is 160,000. With this kind of picture which is a mosaic of the holy land we can envision the relations that have emerged.”
All of the panelists, which included Shrivanian, Archbishop Aristarchos Peristaris, patriarchate of Jerusalem, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, and Father David Neuhaus, vicariate for the Hebrew-Speaking Catholics, the Latin Patriarchate, lauded Rossing's efforts to get to know them, their communities and their beliefs and to help them get along with the other religions.
Neuhaus said Rossing was always familiar with “the pain and suffering of the Jews, the pain and suffering of the Palestinians and the pain and suffering of Armenians. Daniel never forgot the suffering of all these.”
Plus, he got to know the living stones of the church – the actual congregants who make up the community. He showed that it is possible for all of us to live here together, Neuhaus said.
Rossing challenged believers to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem, an important aspect for Christians.
"No city in the world has as many prayers prayed in it than Jerusalem does,” Aristarchos said.
Aristarchos said Rossing consistently brought tour groups to visit the Greek Christians, came to their help as a mediator in political matters with the Israeli government and without fail wished them happy holidays on Christian occasions.
Rossing helped Christians understand why they encounter antagonism from some religious Jews and even get spat upon by the ultra-Orthodox walking through the Armenian Quarter of the Old City. He explained to them that centuries of persecution against Jews in Europe in the name of Christ has been passed on to the generations and still is a fear among certain Jewish communities.
Rossing was an expert on the Christian communities in the Holy Land and wrote extensively on them, on interfaith relations in Israel, and on Jerusalem. Daniel held an undergraduate degree in history and Semitic studies and a Masters degree in theological studies.
Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on connecting Christians to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.
Publication date: December 13, 2011