Friday, 20 July, 2018


Christianity's Holiest Site in Jerusalem Shut in Israel Tax Flap

Christianity's Holiest Site in Jerusalem Shut in Israel Tax Flap Christianity's Holiest Site in Jerusalem Shut in Israel Tax Flap
Bennie Garza | 25 February, 2018, 17:20

Christian leaders on Sunday took the rare step of closing the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built at the site of Jesus's burial in Jerusalem, in protest at Israeli tax measures and a proposed property law. The church leaders accused Israel of trying to "weaken the Christian presence in Jerusalem". He stressed that the Holy Sepulchre and other churches were exempt from the taxes and that they would remain so. In a joint statement Theophilos III, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Francesco Patton, the Custos of the Holy Land, and Nourhan Manougian, the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem said: "This abhorrent bill. if approved, would make the expropriation of the lands of churches possible". The Jerusalem municipality plans to tax some church assets for a first time, and cabinet ministers are studying a bill to expropriate land in Jerusalem that churches sold in recent years to anonymous buyers.

"Therefore, and recalling the Statement of the Patriarchs and Heads of Local Churches in Jerusalem, dated 14 February, 2018 and their previous statement of September 2017, as a measure of protest, we chose to take this unprecedented step of closure of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher", the statement continued.

The statement compared the decisions to "the laws of a similar nature which were enacted against the Jews during dark periods in Europe".

Rachel Azaria, a parliament member for the Kulanu party who sponsored the government's land bill, said it was meant to protect people who own homes on leased land the churches have sold since 2010.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said in a statement that the city was owed 650 million shekels ($186 million, €152 million) in uncollected taxes.

The Jerusalem municipality says it continues to care for Christians needs and their full freedom of worship but "hotels, halls and businesses can not be exempt from municipal taxes simply because they are owned by the churches".

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