Shibli, Israel, August 21, 2023
Israeli authorities blocked thousands of Christians from gathering on Mt. Tabor for the great feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord on Saturday.
Mt. Tabor, in lower Galilee, is the site where Christ ascended with His disciples Peter, James, and John, and was transfigured before them.
Firefighting authorities said the fire-safety plan presented to them was inadequate, allegedly copied from plans for a different location without the necessary adjustments, reports the Times of Israel.
According to Wadia Abu Nasser, a Christian community leader, the authorities had approved the event just days prior.
“We expected that after the cancellation last year, the firefighters would present us with all the safety requirements during the year so that we could hold our religious ritual just as others do. Only at the last minute did they remember to inform us that it was again not approved,” Nasser said.
“They suddenly raised unreasonable and illogical demands that I had no way of fulfilling in such a short amount of time,” Betzer told Ynet. Eyal Betzer, head of the Jezreel Valley Regional Council, told Ynet
In the end, only a few dozen pilgrims were allowed to actually enter the Church of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor. Thousands others, including pilgrims from Greece, Romania, and Serbia, had to remain at the foot of the mountain, reports Haaretz.
Despite the restrictions on pilgrims, the Jerusalem Patriarchate was able to hold services on the mountain. An All-Night Vigil was held from midnight to 3 AM, celebrated by His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem and a number of other hierarchs, including His Eminence Metropolitan Teodosie of Tomis of the Patriarchate of Romania and His Eminence Metropolitan Nikolozi from the Patriarchate of Georgia, reports the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
According to the Church’s report, thousands of pilgrims were in fact able to travel up the mountain to the service, though only on foot, “due to the unacceptable restrictive measures by the Israeli police.”
Before Holy Communion, His Beatitude blessed grapes and delivered a homily in Greek and Arabic on the theology of the great feast.
Another Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the morning by His Eminence Metropolitan Kyriakos of Nazareth.