Church leaders claim priests are being verbally abused and spat at while property is being vandalized in ancient walled city.
“Today the church faces a most severe threat at the hands of certain settler groups. The settlers are persistent in their attempts to erode the presence of the Christian community in Jerusalem. These radical settler groups are highly organized. Over the last years we have witnessed the desecration and vandalism of an unprecedented number of churches and holy sites and receive growing numbers of reports from priests and local worshippers who have been assaulted and attacked. Where the authorities are concerned, this behavior goes largely unchecked and unpunished.”
— Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem
Christians in Jerusalem’s Old City say their presence at the geographical heart of their faith is under threat from intimidation and aggressive property acquisition by hardline Jewish settlers.
According to church leaders, priests are being verbally abused and spat at, and property vandalized.
Tensions have risen this year in the Christian and Armenian quarters of the one square kilometer ancient walled city, which includes the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest place in Christianity where Jesus was believed to be crucified and resurrected. The Old City is also home to places of critical religious importance to Jews and Muslims.
The churches say they are facing onslaught on three fronts: a war of attrition waged by hardline settlers; unprecedented tax demands by Jerusalem city council; and a proposal to allow the expropriation of church land sold to private developers.