Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday dismissed claims by the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry that a procession of Christian Arabs had been prevented from entering the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as part of Easter celebrations in Jerusalem’s Old City.
In a statement issued Saturday evening, the ministry called Serry’s claims “odd” and said they referred to “a non-event.”
The ministry stated that the day’s ceremonies, attended by tens of thousands of pilgrims, had ended peacefully, “despite taking place in such a narrow and constricted space as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and its adjacent square.”
Police, the ministry insisted, “handled the event with the required professionalism and sensitivity, regulating crowd movements and ensuring the safety of all attendants.”
Serry had issued a statement earlier denouncing what he called an “incident” before the Holy Fire ceremony.
He said he and other diplomats visited the Easter procession to the church at the invitation of Jerusalem’s Christian Arab community.
The procession was stopped at a security checkpoint before the church “despite earlier assurances… of unhindered access,” Serry said.
“The Israeli police refused to allow such entry claiming they had orders to that effect. A precarious standoff ensued, ending in an angry crowd pushing their way through.”
But the ministry maintained that Christian dignitaries had thanked the police for their good work throughout the day.
“Had any harm come to the pilgrims due to uncontrolled crowd movements, Mr. Serry would have promptly cast responsibility on the same police which he now condemns for doing its job properly,” the ministry said. “Mr. Serry’s statement is, at the very least, a display of poor judgment.”