JERUSALEM: Christian leaders Sunday took the uncommon step of closing the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the website online of Jesus’s burial in Jerusalem, in protest at Israeli tax measures and a proposed belongings law.
It changed into now not straight away clean how lengthy the closure of the church, introduced by Christian officers at an information convention and which started at around noon (1000 GMT), would ultimate.
The church is considered the holiest web page in Christianity, built wherein Christians consider Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected, and is a prime pilgrimage web site.
“As a degree of protest, we decided to take this extraordinary step of the closure of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre,” Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, and Catholic leaders stated in a declaration.
They said recent Israeli measures appeared to be “a try and weaken the Christian presence in Jerusalem”.
Christian leaders had been angered over tries by using Israeli authorities in Jerusalem to enforce tax series on church belongings they recall business, saying exemptions simplest follow to places of worship or spiritual coaching.
Separately, Christian leaders say regulation being considered by means of Israel’s authorities might allow church assets to be expropriated.
“This abhorrent invoice is about to advance these days in a meeting of a ministerial committee which if authorized would make the expropriation of the lands of church buildings possible,” the announcement said.
“This reminds us all of the laws of a comparable nature which have been enacted in opposition to the Jews throughout a darkish period in Europe.”
Confused travelers stood in the front of the church’s closed doors in Jerusalem’s Old City after the statement as excursion courses sought to explain why they could not go to.
One guy knelt and prayed as people started setting steel boundaries around the doorway.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat stated in a statement that the town was due 650 million shekels ($186 million, 152 million euros) in uncollected taxes on church houses, which he referred to as “illegal and irrational”.
Barkat burdened that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and all other churches have been exempt from the taxes and could remain so, with the adjustments most effective affecting establishments like “accommodations, halls and businesses” owned via the churches.
Christian leaders say the measure jeopardizes their potential to conduct their work, which incorporates no longer best nonsecular however also social offerings to those in want.
A separate invoice seeks to allay fears of Israelis who live in homes on lands previously held with the aid of the Greek Orthodox Church and which have been offered to private developers, according to Rachel Azaria of the centrist Kulanu birthday party, who is featuring the law.
Recent land sales with the aid of the Greek Orthodox Church have drawn hearth from both Israelis and Palestinians.
According to Israeli media, the foreign ministry has been crucial to the Jerusalem mayor’s decision on church taxation, with officials pronouncing the move become harmful to a many-years-long status quo.
A Russian visitor in her 20s who handiest gave her name as Elona said “it is very disappointing” that she couldn’t visit the church on Sunday.
“It is one of the primary spiritual attractions, and to us, it was very essential to visit it due to the fact it’s far our first time (right here),” she stated.
COMMENTSShe stated she does now not feel “her venture is completed” as she turned into only touring for some days.