For the first time since 1990, the church of the Holy Sepulcher is closed.
Church officials took a step of protest for a current Israeli bill moving through the Knesset allegedly targeting Christian owned properties in the region. The law seemingly targets the tax-exemption of the Christian properties, and accuses the church of taking the tax exemption for commercial properties not legally in line with current tax exemption codes. The Municipality says the tax exemption has been applied to restaurants and shops not used for places of worship.
Advocates of the bill say it will limit the church from selling any currently owned properties to private land buyers, unknown to the Jerusalem municipality, creating a market solely controlled by the government.
A report in Christianity Today says, ““Recently, this systematic and offensive campaign has reached an unprecedented level as the Jerusalem Municipality issued scandalous collection notices and orders of seizure of church assets, properties and bank accounts for alleged debts of punitive municipal taxes—a step that is contrary to the historic position of the churches within the Holy City of Jerusalem and their relationship with the civil authorities,” the church leaders stated. “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.”
According to the Jewish News Source Haaretz, the church owes approximately $186 Million in back taxes furthering the debate that the Municipality is systematically trying to reduce the Christian presence in the Holy Land.
It’s important that this action be taken up to the highest of visibility with the international community. Millions of pilgrims travel to worship at the holy sites in Jerusalem. For Christians, the Holy Sepulcher church is the place of Jesus’ Crucifixion and resurrection, thought of as THE MOST holy site of the Christian faith.
It is without debate, Jerusalem is the home of the three largest mono theistic faiths, and when any one is seemingly being targeted unfairly, it begs the question, why?
Is the church operating out of the current administrations laws?
Is there a discriminatory tone being applied to one and not the other two?
For those interested in the freedom of religion around the world, this is a case that must be addressed, and addressed soon. Unfortunately for the beginning of the tourists high season, the decision couldn’t come at a worse time.
We’ll be watching with laser focus and let you know what happens in this ongoing crisis.