Friday, April 1, 2011

Father Olivier and the IDF

The background to this story is the St Mary of the Resurrection Abbey, where there stands a church built between 1141-1170, when the Crusaders ruled the area. Unlikely as it may sound, the church was never destroyed, and although it probably served as a warehouse or barn for many centuries, it was cleaned out in the late 19th century, and in the 20th the original paintings on its walls were uncovered and restored, as much as possible after 800 years. There aren't many cities in the world with fully standing 12th century churches in them, but the Muslim village of Abu Ghosh, West of Jerusalem, has one.

When entering a church in Israel there's always the question of uncovering ones head. You're supposed to do that in churches, but religious Jews aren't supposed to do so at all. I always take off my hat, but sometime I don't take off my Kippa. This time there was a novelty, since our group included a young Muslim woman with her head covered, which she didn't remove, so the church accepted not only the sovereignty of the Jews, so to speak, but also the traditions of the neighbors.

Father Olivier heads the Abbey. He's French, but speaks fine Hebrew. Astonishingly fine, actually, since many of his sentences contain up-to-date IDF slang. So eventually we asked him about it, and he grinned. Back in the early 1980s he was discovered by some women serving in the IDF education corps, and ever since then they've been using him as their in-house expert for Church matters (Ani mashak hinuch be-inyanei Notzrim). Whenever there's an IDF unit spending a week learning about Jerusalem, they call in Father Olivier to explain all the different kinds of Christians there are in town.

Jerusalem never ceases to surprise.


Anonymous said...

"There aren't many cities in the world with fully standing 12th century churches in them"

There are plenty in England and France.

I don't know about Catholic churches, but the etiquette in the Church of England is that men remove their hats and women keep theirs on. However, I don't think you are damned to eternal hell fire if you do otherwise. ;-)


RK said...

I love posts like this. Re: the headcovering, I thought there was no requirement that women uncover their heads in church. Indeed, I think many conservative Catholic women still wear a mantilla (a type of veil) and some Googling tells me that from 1917 to 1983, the Roman Catholic Church required women to cover their heads in church. I went on a similar tour once, which also included a young headscarf-wearing student from Jerusalem named Majduleen, and not one church insisted that she enter sans headscarf. (One group member was kicked out of a church for wearing shorts, though, and spent that stop of the tour outside talking to me, since I didn't go inside the churches.)

Anonymous said...

What an intriguing story and the IDF teaching units about Jerusalem, Father Olivier seems a great guy.
When visiting the chapel in windsor castle/palace I was asked to remove my ball cap but when mentioned religious reason no problem and welcomed by the military custodian
Yaacov I enjoy your pragmatic blog most of the twenty or so I read daily.

AKUS said...

Next time you see the Pope addressing a conclave of Cardinals, you may notice that they are all wearing nice little red kipot.

if they do not have to remove their kipot in a church, neither do you, Yakov.

Anonymous said...

Yaacov, I send you this link from the Tablet. I apologize that it is unrelated to this post, but as I am computer illiterate, it's the best I can do.


Anonymous said...

Did he show you his collection of shoulder tags from different units? I remember meeting him about 12 years ago. I had trouble believing my eyes.