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The inside story of Jerusalem's churches and the battle with city hall

By SETH J. FRANTZMAN


In late February Jerusalem's municipality sought to tax churches in Jerusalem on land that they use for rental or commercial purposes. Another bill making its way through Israel's Knesset also angered the head of the Greek-Orthodox Church. What resulted was the closure of the Holy Sepulchre for an unprecedented three days as the major churches protested Israel's actions. In an interview I spoke with a member of one of the churches about the crises.


Israel and the churches are caught in a “game of chicken,” says the source. Who will swerve first? Will the pilgrims blame the churches for closing the doors, or Israel? Some pilgrims saved their whole life to see this church, and the source wonders when the frustration of these pilgrims will unleash itself. The issue may also boil down to the Vatican finally calling off the solidarity with the Greeks.


“It comes down to fairness. Everyone has obligations. The church has to live in harmony with the state and it has obligations. The state also has obligations. But there is one big problem. There is no one to talk to in the government. The mayor is more powerful than the government.”

The source says that at the end of the day, the pressure appears to actually be one brought by the municipality to punish the government in general through stoking this crisis. The lack of response from the Foreign Ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance Ministry, he thinks, is due to lack of focus. “Everyone is overworked, on our side and theirs.”


Read the full piece at The Jerusalem Post

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