Although the official reason for temporarily closing down the building and canceling Christmas is due to the establishment of a plan for the development of the surrounding area as befits a World Heritage Site, it is believed that the order came as a precautionary safeguard against Islamic terrorists targeting the site and any foreign tourists visiting it during the Christmas holiday.
Built in the mid-sixth century, the Saint Catherine Monastery is one of the oldest monasteries in the world; additionally, it has the oldest continuously operating library in existence, with many precious manuscripts.
Although surrounded by high, thick walls, the Christian site has increasingly come under terror threats, particularly as the Sinai Peninsula is a hotbed of jihadi activity, where Coptic Christians are openly persecuted and sometimes slaughtered.
The monastery was targeted last April, when unknown gunmen opened fire on an Egyptian police checkpoint guarding it, killing one policeman and wounding four. The Islamic State later claimed the attack.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Judith Friedman Rosen Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
 Because most Orthodox Churches, including the Coptic Church, observe Christmas on January 7, church services are held the night before, on January 6, into midnight January 7.