Worshippers kneel and pray in front of the closed doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City, February 25, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
6:41 PM 02/25/2018
Christian leaders shut down The Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Sunday to protest Israeli plans to tax church-owned properties.
Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic leaders barred access to the site traditionally revered as the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, to protest Israeli municipal tax plans they say are comparable to anti-Semitic Nazi-enforced laws, according to The Associated Press. The Israeli municipality plans to tax church-owned properties that don’t qualify as houses of worship, like hotels and businesses, but church leaders claimed the tax plan is part of a “systematic campaign of abuse.”
“This reminds us all of laws of a similar nature, which were enacted against the Jews during dark periods in Europe,” the church leaders said, according to Reuters.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat clarified on Twitter that while houses of worship would remain tax exempt, commercial properties would not be exempt no matter who owned them and Jerusalem citizens should not have to shoulder church-owned commercial properties’ accrued debt.
Commercial buildings are not exempt from municipal taxes (arnona), regardless of their ownership. Debts on the commercial areas owned by the churches is in excess of 650 million NIS.
We will no longer require Jerusalem’s residents to bear or subsidize this huge debt.
— Mayor Nir Barkat (@NirBarkat) February 25, 2018
Church leaders also protested a proposed bill that would allow the Israeli government to expropriate land churches sold to private real-estate (no hyphen) firms. Bill proponents say it will protect residents living in those lands from the possibility of real-estate (ditto) firms discontinuing residents’ leases. Church leaders, however, said the bill would make it difficult for them to sell the lands they own and therefore make it more difficult for them to fund their religious institutions, according to Reuters.
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