Sacred Sites in Contested Regions

Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem

Easter (Fasika) at the Ethiopian Church next to the church of the holy sepulchre
Priest (Qes) welcoming marrying couple
Marriage Ceremony

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem (Kidane Mehret - ኪዳን ምህረት) is the biggest and most distinctive Ethiopian site at the holy land. Established by the end of the 19th century based on the donation of emperor Yohannes IV, the complex includes Ethiopian church round structure and a monastery. Other Ethiopian sites in Israel include a church adjacent to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, a church in Bethlehem, a church in El Azaria and more.

For many years the site was a center for pilgrimage during the main holidays and a quiet monastery at the rest of the year surrounded by a small community of Ethiopian exiles. However, since 2005 a wave of tens of thousands of Eritrean immigrants entered Israel illegally, escaping from tyranny in their country. Most of these people were Christians who belong to the same religious stream as the Ethiopians, but nationally belong to the rival state Eritrea. Despite the rivalry that exists to this day, the Eritrean believers needed an established church and wanted to pray in the holy places of Christianity so they arrived frequently to the Ethiopian Church. As a result, the Ethiopian Church became a focal point connecting Ethiopians and Eritreans, and from quiet site changed into a vibrant religious center. Furthermore, as the Eritreans must work for a living according to the Jewish working week, Sabbath has become the main day in which holidays and masses are held in the church. This is a unique example of religious changes following migration, which takes place on the fringes of the State of Israel.

Omer Hacker.

Main Church and Monastery (Kidane Mehret) located at Ethiopia St. in west Jerusalem.