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Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre Closed Amid Dispute With Israelis

01 March 2018

It argues that a new legal opinion proves that Church-owned properties are liable for tax. It was not immediately clear how long the church, the assumed site of Jesus's crucifixion, burial and resurrection, would remain shut.

As media gathered to hear the church leaders, pilgrims wandered around the church square, some kneeling in front of the massive wooden doors - the closest they would come to entering the church.

In a statement jointly issued by the heads of Catholic, Greek and Armenian denominations, the church leaders said that Israel's violations of the status quo are at an "unprecedented level".

For one of the most remarkable elements to the sensational story of the church's closure yesterday is that, given the different sides involved, it didn't leak out. "When will it open?" she asked. Church officials only said that it would be until further notice. "I'm surprised they haven't done so", he added. "But I can understand the position the church is taking". "The church belongs to the believers, not Israel".

"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. Sunday's statement points out that it targets only the properties of the Christian community.

"Of course there should not be these taxes", said the Reverend Canon John L. Peterson, former secretary general of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Jubran called the demand for taxes "a change in the religious status quo", and a very rude one at that.

Unless Israel relents, he said, Easter season will be "spoiled".

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A separate bill seeks to allay fears of Israelis who live in homes on lands previously held by the Greek Orthodox Church and which were allegedly sold to private developers, according to Rachel Azaria of the centrist Kulanu Party, who is proposing the legislation. He called on the worldwide community to intervene to "stop Israeli practices".

The church leaders say that the settlers groups have long used intimidation, bribery and extreme anti-social behaviour in an attempt to force Christians and other non-Jews out of the Holy City.

Those measures violate worldwide and humanitarian laws, he said, according to Jordan's Petra News Agency.

Israeli authorities have recently imposed a property tax (Anona) upon churches, worth up to millions of shekels.

"The dramatic reality of the Palestinian people in Jerusalem, and particularly of our churches, should be a reminder of the need to end the Israeli occupation", Erekat was quoted as saying on the Twitter page of the PLO's negotiations department.

Meanwhile, Christian leaders in Jordan said they too rejected the Israeli measures. "We have hundreds of pilgrims and tourists that have arrived here to see it and are deprived of the opportunity to pray in the church today", the Chancellor said.

Boulos Haddad, pastor at St George Greek Melkite Catholic Church in the town of Fuheis, said that all the churches unanimously reject this "arbitrary" decision. "And he described the churches in an ugly manner, as tax evaders". But in the end, it was the issue of money that caused all church leaders to unite against Israel.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al Safadi voiced anger at Israel's handling of the situation in the holy city.

Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre Closed Amid Dispute With Israelis