Published: Sun, February 25, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Church of the Holy Sepulcher closes in protest of new policies

Church of the Holy Sepulcher closes in protest of new policies

They are angry about the Jerusalem municipality plans to tax their various assets around the city and a potential parliament bill to expropriate land sold by the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.

The heads of Christian churches in the holy city announced the move in protest against Israeli taxation and land policy affecting church property.

Separately, they complained of a "discriminatory and racist bill" being considered by Israeli legislators that would allow church property to be claimed by the state.

It was not immediately clear how long the church, the assumed site of Jesus's crucifixion, burial and resurrection, would remain shut.

Fatah Movement on Sunday condemned Israeli decisions that target churches and their historical status in Jerusalem and said that these decisions target the Christian presence in Palestine.

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"This systematic and unprecedented attack against Christians in the Holy Land severely violates the most basic, ab antiquo and sovereign rights, trampling on the delicate fabric of relations between the Christian community and the authorities for decades", said Theophilos III, Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, in an address Sunday afternoon.

Rachel Azaria, the lawmaker who sponsored the legislation, said in a statement she agreed to delay the committee's discussion by a week so that "we could work with the churches" to try to resolve the dispute. The churches, major landowners in the city, say such a law would make it harder for them to find buyers for their land.

The proposed taxes will not apply to houses of worship, but to other properties the churches own.

Patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem said in a joint statement that imposing taxes on churches is a violation of all the agreements and worldwide commitments that guarantees the rights and privileges of churches.

Meanwhile, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat claims the churches owe 650 million NIS in unpaid municipal property taxes on property used for non-religious purposes.

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