Church of the Holy Sepulchre to reopen; negotiations launched to resolve tax dispute

The famous Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem will reopen Wednesday while a “professional team” works on resolving a tax dispute with Israeli and municipal officials.

By: World Israel News Staff

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat agreed to establish a professional team, led by Minister for Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi, to formulate a solution for the issue of municipal taxes on properties owned by churches that are not houses of worship, Netanyahu’s media adviser said in a statement Tuesday.

A triumvirate of Christian denominations in Jerusalem closed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem on Sunday, protesting a demand by the Knesset for retroactive payment of delinquent taxes as well as City Hall’s plan to seize church properties and bank accounts in lieu of payment.

The team will negotiate with the representatives of the churches to resolve the issue.

According to the statement, negotiations are ongoing and all legislative activity on the matter will be suspended. The Church will reopen on Wednesday.

“Israel is proud to be the only country in the Middle East where Christians and believers of all faiths have full freedom of religion and worship. Israel is home to a flourishing Christian community and welcomes its Christian friends from all over the world,” the statement said.

Barkat noted in an earlier statement that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, like all churches, was exempt from city taxes and that nothing had altered that situation. “But does it sound logical to anyone that commercial areas like hotels, wedding halls and businesses should share this exemption, just because they are owned by the churches?” he said, adding that the Church owed “a staggering NIS 650 million.”