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Muslims Protect Christians’ Holiest Site for Centuries

AL-QUDS – For centuries, two Muslim families in Palestine have been taking care of Christians’ most sacred site in Al-Quds (Occupied Jerusalem), setting an example of peaceful coexistence in the city of peace.

“This is the family heritage,” Adeeb Joudeh AlHusseini, the Custodian of the keys of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, told CNN on Sunday, March 27.

“It’s all we own as a family, and this is an honor not only for our family. This is an honor for all Muslims in the world.”

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Joudeh is the current holder of the key of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of Christianity’s holiest sites which many Christian denominations for prayer.

Every day, he makes his way through the city’s streets at 3:30 am towards the gates of the Church of Holy Sepulcher.

He carries with him an ancient cast-iron key, some 500 years old. The key is 12 inches long, with a triangular metal handle and a square end.

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The current key has been in use for 500 years after the old one broke after centuries of use.

“This one is 850 years old,” Joudeh says, pointing at the older key.

The key was given to Joudeh family since the 12th century after Salah Elddin Alyoubi noticed some disputes between the Christian denominations in the church, since the church is split between multiple Christian denominations, including Armenian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Franciscans, and more.

Joudeh learned the obligations and responsibilities of guarding the key from his father, just as he will pass it on to his son.

“What we pass to the next generations is not only the key, but also the way you respect other religions.”

Joudeh’s family does not carry this obligation alone as the charge of opening the doors and allowing the faithful to enter the church falls to Wajeeh Nuseibeh.

When Nuseibeh arrives at the church early in the morning, he takes the key from Joudeh to open the church.

The entire process is repeated each evening, when the church is locked.


Sharing this responsibility for centuries, the two Muslim families continue to protect the holy site and keep it open to the Christian faithful.

“For me, the source of coexistence for Islamic and Christian religions is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and that was when Umar ibn Khattab took the keys of Jerusalem from Patriarch Sophronius and gave security and safety to Christians in the region,” Joudeh said.

“We coexist and pass peace and love, which is the real Islamic religion.”

He references history from 1,400 years ago, when Umar ibn Khattab, a Muslim, made an agreement with Sophronius, a Christian, to grant the Christians right of free worship in Al-Quds.

To Joudeh, this history is still alive today, and it is his obligation to carry it on.

According to the Jerusalemite Historian Dr. Aref Al Aref in his book “The Detailed History of Jerusalem” the Joudeh Family was entrusted with the Keys to the Holy Church since the 12th Century under Salah Elddin in 1187.

The Custody of the keys are still in the hands of the Hashemite Joudeh Family, Al Ghodayya, until these days inherited from father to son and nobody is allowed this honored job other than this Hashemite Nobel family.

The Joudeh’s are still dwelling in the Holy Land of Jerusalem. All Christians Denominations are in agreement to keep the honored job with this Muslim family.