Bethlehem's Annual Ecclesiastical Punch-Up

It's become something of a Christmas tradition: the annual ecclesiastical punch-up at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. This year the Palestinian riot police had to be called in after it all kicked off again, with a hundred or so Armenian and Greek Orthodox monks bashing seven bells out of each other with brooms. Apparently one monk was provocatively brushing somewhere that was supposed to be the responsibility of someone else. In this feverishly contested space, if you clean it then you are maintaining it, and if you maintain it then you are making a claim to owning it: that is the logic, such as it is.

Which is why the three church traditions that share the administration of the Church of the Nativity still can't agree on who pays for urgent repairs to the church roof, despite the fact that water is now coming through and damaging the building. All sides want to pay, and refuse to let the others put their hands in their pockets. To pay would be to own.

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