This church building, called Debre Gannet, which is Amharic and means "Monastery of Paradise" is situated in Ethiopia street, in the middle of beautiful 19th century villas built with Jerusalem stone, sitting inside wonderful gardens with old tall trees. It was erected in 1893 by the Ethiopian emperor Johannes I. He wanted his people to have a presence in modern Jerusalem in addition to their church Deir es-Sultan adjacent to the Holy Sepulchre in the old city, near the Jaffa gate. The complex is circumfenced with a beautiful courtyard, adorned with olive trees and a statue of Haile Selassie. Around the courtyard are living quarters for the monks and some families.
Today, the Ethiopian Church in Israel is a small community, which is headed by an archbishop. It consists essentially of a few dozen monks and nuns who live in the old town and near the Ethiopian Church in West Jerusalem. The congregation of believers and followers is constantly growing.
While visiting there monks were sitting in the courtyard, willing to talk to us and allowing us to photograph them. Most of them are only Amharic speaking and seldom fluent in neither Arabic nor Hebrew and almost never in English or any other language and are dependent on those in the community who do, so they called a younger fellow to translate.
Before entering the church the shoes have to be removed, and there is a separate entrance for men and women.
The lion over the gate is the symbol of the church. When queen Sheba visited Jerusalem, king Solomon gave her a banner depicting a lion of Judah, thus the Ethiopians believe of being descendents of Sheba and Solomon.
The bell tower adorned with a small cupola and a cross.
The church is built as a high domed round structure. The inside is very colorful, with tall pink square columns, the ceiling painted blue with flowers and stars and garlands, the floor covered with flower motive carpets, all in a native and charming way.
Light is flowing in from the big windows. Hanging iron wrought lamps add to the ambient. Many religious paintings, symbols and images decorate the walls.
The holy altar is in the middle, to be seen, but not to be touched. The prayer ceremonies are usually very long and walking sticks with chin rests are distributed in several corners for the monks to help them stand still more comfortably.
Many artifacts can be admired on the windowsills and on shelves, like drums, beautiful vases, many full of artificial flowers, embroidered table cloth and shiny curtains. Candles are everywhere. It is allowed to watch the community pray at the ceremonies. Music made with traditional instruments and dancing play a very large part in the services.