Israel Suspends Plan to Levy Taxes on Jerusalem Churches

The Holy Fire ceremony which occurs every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Jerusalem Apr 15 2017

The Holy Fire ceremony which occurs every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Jerusalem Apr 15 2017

Church leaders praised the announcement and agreed to reopen the Holy Sepulchre, which Christians believe is the site of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

The church is revered as the site where Jesus was crucified and resurrected, and the decision closed one of Jerusalem's most visited holy sites just ahead of the busy Easter season.

Christian leaders made a decision to reopen the church after Israel Tuesday suspended tax measures they oppose and shelved a proposed law that would allow the state to expropriate land sold by the church.

The team will include representatives of Israel's finance, foreign affairs and the interior ministries, along with the Jerusalem Municipality, who "will negotiate with church representatives to resolve the issue", according to the statement. We remain concerned at how close some of the political leaders in Israel came to enabling democratic institutions to be co-opted into a campaign of discrimination against Christians.

He said that while the bank accounts of the Franciscans had not been affected, some of the accounts of other churches, such as the Anglicans and the Assyrians, were frozen in mid-February. Barkat also said that the government collects the same taxes from other business owners in the area, regardless of their religion.

The churches, however, said the law would make it harder for them to find buyers for their land and enable confiscation of their land, expressing fears that the land would be expropriated to Jewish settlers. Their sites apparently owed its municipality $185 million in back taxes, which were for properties that were not actual houses of prayers.

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That part was accomplished, even if they had to withstand overtime and a monster performance from Deandre Ayton to do it. Not only was there a possible fatigue factor but, of course, there was an environment Ayton had to deal with.

The tax plan and proposed property legislation was suspended later Tuesday evening. Nuseibeh closed and locked the doors February 25 after heads of Christian churches in the Holy Land announced they were closing of the doors of the church for an undisclosed period of time.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat says the city is due 650 million shekels ($186 million/152 million euros) in uncollected taxes on church properties.

The leaders of the Armenian Apostolic, Greek Orthodox, and Roman Catholic churches alleged that such moves are part of a conscious effort to slowly rid Jerusalem of Christians. Jerusalem's churches, synagogues, and mosques are exempt from municipal taxes.

Aboul-Gheit and Bogdanov discussed the outcomes of a mini-Arab ministerial meeting with European ministers on the Palestinian-Israeli peace process in the light of the USA decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Christian leaders are angry over attempts by Israeli authorities in Jerusalem to enforce tax collection on church property they consider commercial, saying exemptions only apply to places of worship or religious teaching.

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