Muslims to Lose Sole Control
of Holy Sepulcher Keys
After 800 years, two Muslim families will soon lose the distinction of being the sole possessors of the key to the 900-year old Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem. In the 12th century, Christians from different denominations fought over who should keep the key to the church where their tradition says Jesus was buried and resurrected. To end the fighting, the Arab conqueror Saladin entrusted the key to the Muslim Nuseibeh and Joudeh families.
Now, eight centuries later, the 10-inch metal key is still safeguarded in the house of the Joudeh family. Every morning at dawn, Wajeeh Nuseibeh, who took over the job of doorkeeper from his father 20 years ago, picks up the key and opens the massive wooden church doors. Every night at 8:00 p.m. he returns to shut and lock them.
Muslim control of the key, however, does not mean Muslim control of the Church. Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Armenian Orthodox groups share the main control of the church, while the Ethiopian, Egyptian Copt and Syrian churches still maintain a presence. Christian sects have, for centuries, guarded their corners of the shrine.
The leaders of all denominations united on Sunday June 20, 1999, in their decision to install a new exit door in the church. The door will be opened as a safety measure for the four million pilgrims expected to visit in the year 2000. Currently, the church has only one door, a factor that contributed to the deaths of dozens of visitors who were trampled to death during a fire in 1840.
Source: Florida Today, June 21, 1999