By Azania Post Reporter
In protest against new Israeli tax policies, Christian leaders in Jerusalem have decided a rare step of closing Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built at what is said to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion.
The church is considered the holiest site in Christianity, built where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected, and is a major pilgrimage site.
The move, they claim was reached because of what they say an unfair targeting of the Christian community in the country.
Leaders of the Catholic, Greek, and Armenian denominations said they were indefinitely closing the church, home to Christianity’s holiest sites, because of a “systematic campaign of abuse against Churches and Christians” by Israeli authorities.
It is the first time the church has been closed since 1990 when it was shut in protest at Israeli settlers taking over a Christian building, and it was not clear when its 1,000-year-old doors will open again.
“As a measure of protest, we decided to take this unprecedented step of the closure of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre,” the Christian leaders said in a joint statement.
“We, the heads of Churches in charge of the Holy Sepulchre and the Status Quo governing the various Christian Holy Sites in Jerusalem - the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the Custody of the Holy Land and the Armenian Patriarchate - are following with great concern the systematic campaign against the Churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land, in flagrant violation of the existing Status Quo,” a statement issued on Sunday read.
“Recently, this systematic and offensive campaign has reached an unprecedented level as the Jerusalem municipality issued scandalous collection notices and orders of the 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.
“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 greatest victims in this are those impoverished families who will go without food and housing, as well as the children who will be unable to attend school.
“Together with all Heads of Churches in the Holy Land, we stand united, firm and resolute in protecting our rights and our properties.”
In response to the closing of the church, MK Azaria said: "I understand that the church is under pressure, but their lands will stay theirs, no one has any interest in taking them from them."