The Catholic University of America






Professor Breger Interprets Law of the Holy Places for Student Audience


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Who owns—or has rightful access to—the Holy Places in the city of Jerusalem is a core issue in today’s Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But fighting over claims to various parts of the city are nothing new. They go back to at least the seventh century, when they were already a flashpoint between Christians and Muslims. 

Professor Marshall Breger offered a Nov. 10 lecture, “The Law of the Holy Places in the Holy Land” to help interested students decipher the complicated labyrinth of religious, cultural, and historical ties that intersect in the Holy Land and make a lasting peace there so elusive today.    
Breger discussed the competing claims by various groups over landmarks such as the Temple Mount, the Church of the Sepulchre, the Dome of the Rock, and the Western (or Wailing) Wall. Today, Jerusalem’s Old City is divided into four quarters, controlled by Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Armenians.
He described the current status quo regarding access to Jerusalem’s Holy sites as an intricate daily ritual that dictates which religions may use which sites in which areas at what times.

The ironclad rules must be observed to the letter in order to maintain peace. Breger explained that “Even a misplaced chair within a church has led to huge fights among clerics,” prompting authorities to intervene.
Supplemented by a slide presentation, Breger’s remarks covered the legal history of Holy Places in the Holy Land, paying special attention to the legal positions of the parties today. He also considered the political and sociological contexts of the disputes, reviewing some of the theological concerns that make it such a contentious issue.
After so many years of religious infighting, Breger did not offer hope that a peaceful accommodation over the Holy Sites would be reached anytime soon.
“Jerusalem is a powder keg. Jews and Arabs do not see a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.