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Unprecedented campaign against churches

Feb 27,2018 - Last updated at Feb 27,2018

Jerusalem heads of churches, including the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the Armenian Patriarchate and the Custody of the Holy Land, have all decided to close down the doors of the Church of Holy Sepulchre in East Jerusalem in protest of Jerusalem municipality’s decision to levy taxes (Arnona) on church-owned properties in East Jerusalem on the pretext that they are not places of worship.

In doing so, Israeli authorities are trying to split hairs on what is religious and what is not. The intended measures of Jerusalem municipality also target churches’ right to sell church-owned lands or properties to private buyers.

At stake is about NIS 650 million in taxes and 887 properties across Jerusalem. Hitherto, no such taxes were ever imposed on church properties and no restrictions were ever imposed on the sale of properties belonging to churches in Jerusalem.

Closing down the doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is rare in the history of East Jerusalem, especially that about 90 per cent of tourists visiting the ancient city specifically come to East Jerusalem for its holy sites.

It so happens that the Church of Holy Sepulchre is one of the holiest places, if not the holiest, for Christians worldwide. It is where many Christians believe that Jesus Christ was crucified and then entombed prior to his resurrection.

The Israeli provocations came on the eve of the upcoming Easter holidays and the closure of the doors of the holiest place on Earth for Christians is, therefore, a big blow to Christians everywhere.

This whole provocative Israeli move further exacerbates tensions over the status of East Jerusalem, and puts both Muslims and Christians on a collision course with Israel.

This is an added reason why the status of East Jerusalem must be delicately handled by all nations, especially the US. This also means that the status quo in East Jerusalem must be maintained and the custodianship of His Majesty King Abdullah over all the holy sites of the holy city must be recognised, protected and strengthened for all times.

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