"Please take your shoes off" - The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is the largest of the Oriental Orthodox Christian Churches. It has a membership of between 45 and 50 million people of the majority of whom live in Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has maintained a quiet presence in Jerusalem for more than 1,500 years, with some people claiming that there has been an Ethiopian delegacy in the Holy Land ever since the renowned meeting of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon some 3,000 years ago.
The scriptures of the Ethiopian Church emphasize the importance of the Old Testament as much as the new and strengthen the religious connection between the Ethiopian culture and the Bible, which has a national-political dimension that claims the origins of the kings of Ethiopia from the Solomon race and the Ethiopian people are the chosen people.
Ethiopian Christianity has also absorbed the influence of Judaism - customs such as Brit Milah, kosher food and the sanctity of Shabbat (Sabbath observance) alongside Sunday are among the cornerstones of Ethiopian Christianity.
The church holds three large centers In Jerusalem. For many centuries, the center of the Ethiopian Church in Jerusalem was a small courtyard with several structures behind the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Christian Quarter of the Old City named - Deir El-Sultan. The Ethiopian Patriarchate in the old city is the second center of the church as it occupies some of the patriarch as residents. Nowadays, the Church has to a large extent relocated outside the walls to the western city of Jerusalem at the Kidane Mehret Church. The move began in the 19th century, when a succession of powerful Ethiopian monarchs decided to establish a strong presence outside of Africa. In 1888, Ethiopian Emperor Yohanes IV bought a large plot of land and began construction of a new church and monastery. The complex eventually lent its name to the road on which it is situated – Ethiopia Street.
While working on my last project - mea shearim, I encountered this church since it is borden with the area. I remember noticing a small sign along the road stating - “Please take your shoes off”. I later learned that it is based on an ancient costume that a person must remove his shoes before entering the churches as a sign of respect and honor. This small sign has draw me in, setting me on another journey and exploration on the subject of religion, in the city of gods - the city of Jerusalem.