Vice President Mike Pence will not be permitted to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem when he visits the Middle East next month, as a result of the Trump administration's decision to recognize the city as Israel's capitol, according to the man who holds the keys to the building.
"I absolutely refuse to officially welcome the American Vice President Mr. Mike Pence at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and I will not be physically in church during his visit," wrote Adeep Joudeh, the custodian of the church—one of the world's most sacred Christian sites—in a letter to Israel's Channel 2 News on Wednesday. "This is an expression of my condemnation of President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel."
Trump's decision, announced last week, set off protests not just in Gaza and the West Bank, where Palestinians view East Jerusalem as their future capitol city, but throughout the Middle East. Demonstrators in Turkey declared that the Israeli occupation of land that Palestinians view as theirs is a fundamental issue for all Muslims.
Joudeh, a Muslim, is joined by Christians in the region who have denounced Trump's move. Egypt's Coptic Christian Church has also said it would not meet with Pence, citing the United States' decisison "at an unsuitable time and without consideration for the feelings of millions of people."
Prior to Trump's announcement, several Christian churches in Jerusalem joined the international community in urging the president not to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to the city. Opponents warned him not to inflame tensions by appearing to side with Israel over the status of the city after decades of U.S. policy that urged peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians to resolve their conflict.
The action, the churches said, would "yield increased hatred, conflict, violence, and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land...and cause irreparable harm."
Since the announcement, several Trump administration officials have told the Washington Post that Trump didn't have a full understanding of the implications of moving the embassy to Jerusalem.
On social media, Trump critics reacted to the news of the key-holder at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other religious groups in the region snubbing the evangelical Christian vice president, as well as the Trump administration's general lack of understanding of the region.
You know sh!t's going South on you when the 'Man who holds keys to holy Christian site in Jerusalem' refuses to welcome, .@VP:— PC: United (@PCUnitedPage) December 13, 2017
“I absolutely refuse to officially welcome the American Vice President Mr. Mike Pence at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher..."https://t.co/7ZTe4G56EO
I guarantee that Pence and fellow Evangelicals for whom Trump recklessly made the Jerusalem move have no idea that Coptic Christians are the oldest Christian community in the world. Their Jesus is white and blue-eyed https://t.co/r41PXLCm34 via @ahramonline pic.twitter.com/UazJn29NoS— Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) December 9, 2017