22 June 2006, 15:11
World Russian People’s Council outraged at raid upon Orthodox church in Israel

Moscow, June 22, Interfax - The World Russian People’s Council, a well-known public organization, has expressed indignation over the raid made recently upon the Orthodox church of St. Nicholas at Migdal ha’Emeq in Israel. Some unknown vandals abused the holy icons and desecrated the grave of the founder and first rector of the church.

‘The World Russian People’s Council stands invariably for the immunity of places of worship - churches, synagogues, mosques. Acts of vandalism committed against them resound with pain in the hearts of millions of people’, reads the Council’s statement the text of which has been communicated to Interfax on Thursday.

The document expresses regret that attacks are made on Orthodox churches, chapels and monasteries in Israel today and clergy are sometimes subjected to beatings and insults - the fact ‘that cannot but disturbs us’.

‘Xenophobia is very dangerous for the multi-ethnic and poly-confessional Israeli people who are responsible for maintaining peace in the Holy Land, just as for any multi-confessional society’, the statement stresses.

Its authors are convinced that the recent raid upon the Orthodox church should be given ‘the most resolute rebuff by the authorities of the State of Israel and the international community’.

The World Russian People’s Council urges to find the culprits as soon as possible and to take all the necessary measure to prevent such crimes.

It hopes ‘that through joint efforts we will attain a peaceful and safe life in the Holy Land, and is convinced that ‘it is only peace and mutual acceptance that can help preserve the unique climate of good-neighborliness without which a stable future in this land cherished by us all is impossible’.
New Jerusalems for Moscow and the World
By Antonina Frolenkova The Moscow News
Moscow hosts an International Symposium dedicated to the translation of sacred spaces in Christian culture

The international conference, New Jerusalems, the Translation of Sacred Spaces in Christian Culture, was recently held at the Tretyakov Gallery. It was organized by the Moscow-based Research Center for Eastern Christian Culture and timed for the 350th anniversary of New Jerusalem monastery, founded in the Moscow region by Patriarch Nikon.
The New Jerusalem project near Moscow was the largest re-creation of the Holy Land not only in Russia, but in the world. Written documents say that Nikon called this place on the Istra River "prepared" for the New Jerusalem complex, with Istra symbolizing the Jordan river, and the mountain in the center of the area symbolizing Zion. Nikon's Jerusalem is unique for the precise reproduction of its "prototype". The monastery's main church was designed according to the ground plan of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, and the whole complex had additional chapels commemorating the topography of the Holy Land.
The translation of this sacred place in Christian tradition refers to the concept of New Jerusalem on earth and Jerusalem in heaven, a divine place, where one can find happiness, harmony and triumph of justice. Russia's New Jerusalem became both a grandiose "spatial icon" and a part of Nikon's project for the "sacralization" of Russia. It was also an ideological project brought to life by the necessity to establish Russia's place in Christian Orthodox history.
The idea of 'translating' the Holy Land - the creation of New Jerusalems - was reflected not merely in special landscapes and related monumental programs, but in all Christian churches and their iconographical devices.
"Although our symposium is linked with the Moscow region New Jerusalem, it is not limited to the research of this phenomenon only in Russian culture. We are talking about the tradition of sacred spaces creation and translation internationally. Leading scholars on medieval art, cultural history and anthropology from world-known American and European Universities came to our symposium to present their papers. Our approaches are based on the recent concept of hierotopy according to which creation of sacred spaces should be examined as a special type of creativity and as a subject of historical studies," says head of Research Center for Eastern Christian Culture Alexei Lidov - the author of the hierotopy concept.
According to this concept, visual architectural forms and various images, as well as changing lightenings and fragrance, ritual gestures and prayers, in each case create a unique spatial complex. These environments should be considered as important historical documents. The studies of Eastern Christian sacred spaces, relics and miracle-working icons as cultural phenomena are among the priorities of the conference participants.
Richard Marks, professor at the University of York, United Kingdom:
My paper is concerned with what can be called an 'architectural icon,' the use of architectural representation as symbol and metaphor. Nowhere can this subject be explored as thoroughly, as in the numerous icons, depicting the famous Solovetsky Monastery on the White Sea. The distance, remoteness and climatic severity of Solovetsky replicated for pilgrims the hardships of the journey to the real Holy Land. With the dedications of churches to the Mother of God and Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, the monastic complex offered simulacrum of the sacred sites of Israel. The experiences of those, who made the journey to Solovetsky, and those who were limited to viewing its icons in their local church or domestic space, were framed by architectural topography of the site itself, or of its representations. Albeit far less explicitly than Patriarch Nikon's The New Jerusalem Monastery on Istra, Solovetsky itself and the holy icons have evoked this metaphorical journey to the heavenly city, made concrete and manifest on the soil of Holy Russia. The pilgrims approaching the Annunciation Gate from the foreshore replicated the blessed, permitted to enter through the gates into the heavenly city.
Danica Popovic, the Serbian Academy of Science, Belgrade:
In Christian thought and practice, desert figures as the space for askesis, isolated from the world and full of temptations. But it is also a sacred space, the scene of divine revelation, a mythologized space for the action of important biblical figures, including Christ himself. If desert is a locus of contact between the earthly and the heavenly, the same category should include locales such as mountain and cave. Three mystical caves, the sites of the Christ's birth, burial and first theophany bore the epithets of "saving cave" or "most holy cave." These holy places were served as the earthly reflections of the Heavenly Jerusalem. Translation of Jerusalem, seen as a possibility for the symbolical transfer of sacredness and its renovation on other sites, is connected with the spiritualization of the idea of the Holy Land; if true Jerusalem is transcendent in an immanent reality, it may be "actualized" virtually anywhere. Such a view had far-reaching consequences leading to the creation of new sacred areas and re-identification of some peoples as "new Israel."