19 February 2018
AsiaNews.it Twitter AsiaNews.it Facebook
Geographic areas

  • > Africa
  • > Central Asia
  • > Europe
  • > Middle East
  • > Nord America
  • > North Asia
  • > South Asia
  • > South East Asia
  • > South West Asia
  • > Sud America
  • > East Asia

  • » 04/22/2017, 15.31


    The ancient tradition of tattoos in the Holy Land

    At first, the tattoo was a sign of oppression that was eventually claimed as a proof of faith. From the crusades to the present day, for pilgrims the tattoo is a permanent testament to their journey.

    Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Getting a tattoo during the pilgrimage to the Holy Land goes back centuries, and is a physical testament to pilgrims’ faith.

    Wassim Razzouk runs a small tattoo shop in Jerusalem’s Old City. On holidays, he moves to more spacious halls in local monasteries to cope with the influx of pilgrims. This Easter he moved into the basement of the St Mark Syriac Monastery. When he spoke to Middle East Eye, he had 30 customers.

    Kareem Solomon, a 26-year-old Assyrian Christian who migrated to the UK from Iraq as a child, told the online news portal, "I'm Christian and I want others to know it."

    Wassim Razzouk is part of a family with 700-year-old tattooing practice, passed down on the father’s side. It originally developed in Coptic Egypt and was brought to historic Palestine when the family immigrated some 450 years ago.

    British and Australian soldiers stationed in British Palestine between 1920 and 1948 became the main clientele of Wassim’s grandfather, Yacoub Razzouk, in West Jerusalem.

    As a result of the first Arab-Israeli war, Yacoub and his family were forced to abandon shop and home and flee to Jordan. Later, they settled in East Jerusalem, where they became the last Palestinian family to provide tattoos to pilgrims.

    Last year, Wassim opened an official tattoo in the Old City. For him, his tattooing has reaffirmed his pride in not only his Christian identity, but also in his Palestinian roots.

    “Especially being from a minority [religious] community in Palestine, I feel honoured to be a custodian of a practice so deeply connected with our history in this region.”

    Originally, getting tattooed in the Holy Land was not a choice for Christians, but an oppressive imposition. In Roman times, they were sometimes arrested, marked and forced to work in gold, silver and lead mines.

    Following the Muslim conquest of the region in 640 AD, Christians were tattooed with a cross on their inner right wrist so that authorities could more easily identify their religion and collect taxes levied on Christian communities.

    Over time, Christians claimed this mark as a sign of their faith. Some churches, especially Coptic ones, began to offer tattoos as a service to the community.

    Eventually, the tattooed cross had to be shown to enter the church as a safety precaution. For persecuted Christians, the tattooed cross became a symbol of closeness to the suffering of Jesus Christ.

    e-mail this to a friend Printable version

    See also

    22/06/2016 14:02:00 BAHRAIN
    As tensions remain high, authorities raid Ayatollah Isa Qassim’s headquarters

    Police raid the building housing the cleric’s offices, including student residences. For the cleric’s associates, the move is “provocative and offensive”. The authorities threaten to deport him unless he goes into voluntary exile.

    15/06/2005 HOLY LAND
    A tool for peace: the Directory of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land
    As a communication tool for local Catholics, the Directory's first English-language edition offers up-to-date information about the Church's activities, institutions and addresses in the Holy Land.

    28/11/2005 HOLY LAND
    Israel slams swearing-in of Theophilos III as a "serious impropriety"

    Thursday's ceremony, which went ahead in spite of official objections, is being called to question. The patriarch has accused Israel of behaving "like the Ottoman Empire".

    09/10/2006 HOLY LAND
    Christian religious leaders release statement on the status of Jerusalem
    The heads of local Christian Churches point out that unilateral actions used so far have brought neither peace to the holy city nor a normal life to its residents. They call for a committee to look into the city's future status, which must be guaranteed by the international community.

    22/03/2017 18:20:00 HOLY LAND
    For Jerusalem Churches, restoration of the aedicule of the Holy Sepulchre is symbol of brotherhood and co-operation

    An ecumenical ceremony marked the reopening of the aedicule. Representatives of the Franciscan community, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Churches spoke at the event. Mgr Pizzaballa also spoke. Pope Francis donated money for the restoration of the Holy Sepulchre and the basilica in Bethlehem. Bartholomew I, Patriarch of Constantinople, expressed his gratitude.

    Editor's choices

    The tears of Chinese bishops. A portrait of Msgr. Zhuang, bishop of Shantou

    Padre Pietro

    A priest of the official Church, recalls the 88 year old bishop that the Vatican wants to replace with an illegitimate bishop, to please the regime. Mons. Zhuang Jianjian became an underground bishop at the behest of the Vatican in 2006. Card. Zen and Msgr. Zhuang, image of the faithful Church, "which provokes an immense sadness and a sense of impotence". The hopes of card. Parolin to console "the past and present sufferings of Chinese Catholics".

    Card. Zen on the bishops of Shantou and Mindong

    Card. Joseph Zen

    The bishop emeritus of Hong Kong confirms the information published in recent days by AsiaNews and reveals details of his conversation with Pope Francis on these topics: "Do not create another Mindszenty case", the primate of Hungary whom the Vatican forced to leave the country, appointing a successor in Budapest, at the will of the communist government of the time. 


    AsiaNews monthly magazine (in Italian) is free.


    News feed

    Canale RSSRSS channel 


    IRAN 2016 Banner

    2003 © All rights reserved - AsiaNews C.F. e P.Iva: 00889190153 - GLACOM®