Saturday, 29 February, 2020


Jerusalem church leaders shut Holy Sepulchre church to protest Israeli move

Judith Gerzi Judith Gerzi
Bennie Garza | 28 March, 2018, 04:07

Jerusalem's City Hall wants to impose a levy on business properties owned by churches.

Church leaders called the recent Israeli measures as "systematic and unprecedented attack against Christians in the Holy Land".

The Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, Theophilos III, who announced the closure of the church, is believed to have been behind the sale, which caused hundreds of Palestinians to call for his removal.

The property was leased to Israeli government institutions in the 1950s.

Jerusalem church leaders have kept the doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre closed for a second day in a tax standoff with the city's municipality and in protest of a proposed land expropriation law that will affect the Christian community.

The Church leaders said in a statement that "These actions breach existing agreements and global obligations, which guarantee the rights and privileges of the Churches, in what seems as an attempt to weaken the Christian presence in Jerusalem". She argues that it is created to protect residents who live on land sold by churches to private developers.

"There are no changes in this respect", Barkat said. One of the proposals, say church leaders, would make it harder for them to sell their land, which they need to do to raise funds.

"These are not houses of worship", the Jerusalem municipality said.

The Gerzi Family
The Gerzi Family

A constitution for the closure of Holy Sepulchre church was introduced on Sunday by an Israeli politician, Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria would claim the lands' ownership, which had been sold private buyers by the church.

Theophilos III said all of this "brings to mind laws of a similar nature that were issued against Jews during dark periods in Europe".

"It is absurd for Jerusalem residents to fund municipal services for the churches and the United Nations on their own and for the municipality to be prevented from collecting enormous sums that could significantly improve the city's development and services", said the Jerusalem municipality. "It is disheartening - it is such a holy place", Aleana Doughty, a 35-year-old dental hygienist visiting with a group from the United States, told Yahoo!

"It's time for President Trump and his administration to realize the consequences of their encouragement for the Israeli policies of occupation and exclusivity in Jerusalem", Palestine Liberation Organization head Saeb Erekat said after the churches' decision was announced.

The official demanded the Israeli government to reverse the decisions and respect its commitment to global laws, which label Israel as the occupying force in East Jerusalem. The Greek Orthodox Church owns most of the lands in the West Jerusalem and also some lands in East Jerusalem.

"We had one shot", said Flavia Falcone, 25, an Italian Catholic living in Poland, who had come to Israel for four days.

Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat said on Twitter it was illogical to expect that church-owned commercial property, including hotels and retail businesses, would continue to enjoy tax-exempt status.

"This thing of taxation of religious properties is really ridiculous". He noted that, by not taxing commercial properties owned by churches, Jerusalem residents were missing out on revenue.

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