The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is one of the most visited sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. During my work as CPO, I hardly came across a client or group who came to Jerusalem and skipped a visit there. And for a good reason! The church is one of the most beautiful sites in Israel.
If you are new in the industry, or just not familiar with the site, there are a few things you need to know. Understand these things before you start doing executive protection in Jerusalem and escort your client to the church’s compound.
Apart from the tomb itself, there are a number of different churches within the compound. If you are working with a group, take into consideration that they are likely to split up. During the tour, they might separate to pray in their respective churches (Catholic, Orthodox, etc.), or to see different things.
Be prepared to split your security team or alternatively coordinate a meeting point. That way, the rest of the group will know where to finish the tour while you escort the principal.
There is no cellular reception inside the site. If you work in a team, always make sure you have radios. So when and if the group decides to split, you can still communicate effectively.
Do not get carried away with the sights. The church is amazing in its beauty, but it’s enough to move your eyes from the Principals for a few moments. Then, they will disappear among the thousands of people who visit the church every day.
Prepare the Principals in advance for the usually long waiting time before entering the tomb itself, which is located in the center of the church. The waiting time can sometimes last an hour.
Like many parts of the Old City, the church and its surroundings are full of security forces (overt and covert). And being security personnel yourself (who walks always looking around and searching for threats), you might draw their attention.
Make sure to cooperate with them in case they approach you for questioning. I am always in favor of avoiding cynicism and giving everyone the respect and seriousness that they deserve.
Even if you did your advance work and learned the place in-depth, if you did not get assistance from someone experienced who knows the site, you may find yourself in trouble. After many years of doing executive protection in Jerusalem, we already know the alleys and places to which the Principals can be evacuated in case an event develops.
The Old City of Jerusalem is a very complex and sensitive place. It is possible that the same alley to which you decided to evacuate the Principals will actually put you and them in a possible conflict with a local, problematic population.
I would be happy to help anyone who feels they need more information about different sites in Israel.
I wish everyone a happy holiday season and hope to see you here in Israel soon!