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Easter in Egypt resurrects debate over travel to Israel

In the lead-up to Orthodox Easter May 1, disputes have resurfaced over visits by Egyptian Copts to Jerusalem.

CAIRO — The debate concerning Egyptian Coptic Christians traveling to Jerusalem arises each year in the lead-up to Easter, which is celebrated on May 1 this year in the Orthodox Church. Copts who decide to travel to Jerusalem to visit the holy sites are often accused of "normalization with Israel" and of violating the orders of the Egyptian Orthodox Church, which opposes their travel to Jerusalem. Meanwhile, other churches in Egypt — including the Catholic and Evangelical ones — do not oppose such trips and consider the issue a matter of personal freedom.

The decision to forbid Copts from traveling to Jerusalem dates back to the 1960s during the days of Coptic Pope Cyril VI of Alexandria, and stems from the conflict with Israel over Deir El-Sultan monastery in East Jerusalem. Israel handed the monastery over to the Ethiopian monks after expelling the Egyptian monks in the wake of the June 1967 war. The decision remained applicable in the days of Pope Shenouda III during the session of the Holy Synod on March 26, 1980.

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