Church of the Holy Sepulchre closed to protest Jerusalem taxes

Jesus’s tomb inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem. (photo: Lior Mizrahi / Getty Images)

Reversing centuries of precedent, Jerusalem municipal authorities are placing liens on churches to collect $186 million in taxes.

By Griffin Paul Jackson | Christianity Today | Feb 25, 2018

“These actions breach existing agreements and international obligations which guarantee the rights and the privileges of the churches, in what seems as an attempt to weaken the Christian presence in Jerusalem.”
— The Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem

“All of our assets are frozen. We can’t pay for food, salaries, administration, nothing.”
— Anonymous official of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate

In an action not seen in more than a century, the leaders of Jerusalem’s churches closed the doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Sunday in a show of united protest. The dramatic decision comes in response to moves by Jerusalem authorities to begin collecting tens of millions of dollars in taxes from churches, as well as proposed legislation to confiscate church-owned land.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre — considered by many Christians to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, tomb and resurrection — is jointly managed by a cadre of Orthodox and Catholic churches. It is one of the most-visited sites in Israel, and its closure came as a sudden shock, especially with Easter celebrations approaching.

In a defiant statement released at the time of the closure, church leaders called the municipality’s new policy a “systematic campaign against the churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land,” according to The Jerusalem Post.  Continue reading “Church of the Holy Sepulchre closed to protest Jerusalem taxes”

Jerusalem municipality freezes millions from UN and church bank accounts

The Dormition church on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. (photo: Anna Kaplan / Flash90)

Jerusalem mayor using international organizations in budget dispute with Finance Ministry.

By Michael Bachner | The Times of Israel | Feb 4, 2018

Jerusalem enjoys an annual “capital grant” from the [Israeli Finance Ministry] that helps it offset low tax revenue due to large populations with relatively high percentages that are not part of the taxpaying workforce, including roughly a third of the city’s population that is made up of ultra-Orthodox Jews and another third of Palestinian Arabs.

The Jerusalem municipality has handed out fines totaling millions of dollars to properties owned by the United Nations and by churches, citing a new legal opinion that says the properties are not legally defined as places of worship and therefore aren’t entitled to exemptions from property tax.

The step appeared to be an escalation of a dispute between the municipality and the Finance Ministry over funds. Mayor Nir Barkat has been conducting a high-profile campaign against Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon that included instructing workers to dump trash at the entrance to the ministry offices in Jerusalem and threatening to lay off more than 2,000 city employees.

Continue reading “Jerusalem municipality freezes millions from UN and church bank accounts”