Greek Orthodox Church Seeks To Block Sale of Property to Hardline Jewish Group
August 13, 2017
The Greek Orthodox patriarch in the Holy Land said his church will appeal an Israeli court decision that approved the sale of church property in Jerusalem’s Old City to a company that buys property for Jews in mostly Arab areas of the Old City. The Jerusalem District court upheld the deal for three large properties near Jaffa Gate to be leased to Ateret Cohanim, a hardline group that supports Jews living in all parts of Jerusalem and has been buying properties from Arab owners. In this case, the group would lease the property for 99 years. In a news conference in Jordan, Patriarch Theophilos III said Saturday that the lower court ruling was “politically motivated” and said the church would appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court. The church will do “everything within its power so that this unjust ruling will be overturned,” he said. Most of the 220,000 Greek Orthodox Christians in Israel, Jordan and the West Bank are Arab. The Greek Orthodox Church is one of the largest property owners in the Holy Land, including in Jerusalem’s Old City, one of the most sensitive areas of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They also own the land that the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, is built on. Israel’s current government rejects any partition of Jerusalem as part of a possible peace deal. Since 1967, when Israel annexed east Jerusalem, some 200,000 Jews have moved to neighborhoods built for them by successive Israeli governments. In addition, Jewish groups have bought homes in predominantly Arab-populated neighborhoods. Palestinians say that east Jerusalem must be the future capital of a Palestinian state.