Panarmenian- The Church of the Holy Sepulchrereopened early Wednesday, February 28 morning after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became personally involved and froze the measures that had infuriated church leaders, The Jerusalem Post reports.
The site had been closed since Sunday.
“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 Custodian of the Holy Land and the Armenian Patriarchate – give thanks to God for the statement released earlier today by Prime Minister Netanyahu and offer our gratitude to all those who have worked tirelessly to uphold the Christian presence in Jerusalem and to defend the status quo,” the leaders of the three denominations in charge of the site said in a statement.
“After the constructive intervention of the prime minister, the Churches look forward to engage with Minister [Tzachi] Hanegbi, and with all those who love Jerusalem to ensure that our holy city, where our Christian presence continues to face challenges, remains a place where the three monotheistic faiths may live and thrive together,” it added.
Netanyahu became involved after it became clear that the closure of the church had the potential to cause Israel considerable diplomatic damage, and both Jordan and the Palestinians claimed that this was an indication that Israel was “threatening the presence of Christians in the Holy Land.”
The decision to shut the doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre came in protest over the Jerusalem Municipality’s plan to collect property tax on church-owned properties that are not used as houses of worship and to protest a bill that would authorize the expropriation of land sold by churches in return for compensation to the investors that purchased the properties.
This legislation was designed to protect hundreds of Jerusalem homeowners whose homes were built on land owned by the churches – primarily the Greek Orthodox Church – but which has since been sold to other investors, leading to uncertainty as to the future of their homes.
Netanyahu agreed with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to establish a team led by Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, with the participation of all the relevant parties, to find a solution to both issues.
In the meantime, the municipality has frozen its tax collection efforts, and legislation concerning the sale of church property will be suspended.