In final ruling, court says Israeli purchase of Greek Orthodox Church property in Jerusalem is legal

This ruling is considered another victory for organizations working to boost the Jewish presence in the Old City of Jerusalem.

By Aryeh Savir, TPS

The High Court of Justice dismissed the Greek Patriarchate’s demand to overturn a ruling ordering the transfer of buildings it owns in the Old City of Jerusalem to the Israeli Ateret Cohanim organization, a final judgment putting an end to the sprawling saga.

The judges rejected the Greek Patriarchate’s appeal of the district’s decision not to hold a retrial on the sale of the property at the Jaffa Gate, and the entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City.

After an 18-year-long battle, the court on Thursday ruled again that the Greek Orthodox Church must honor a 99-year lease of three church properties it signed with the Ateret Cohanim organization in 2004.

This ruling is considered another victory for organizations working to boost the Jewish presence in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The Patriarchate rejected the ruling as “unfair, and not following any legal or logical basis.”

The ruling will allow Ateret Cohanim to resume its efforts to evacuate the Arab tenants from the properties, two large hotels situated at the Jaffa Gate.

Ateret Cohanim, the Israeli organization that gained legal control of the buildings, has a yeshiva located in the Muslim Quarter and works to augment the Jewish presence in the Old City and eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods.

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It purchased the buildings near the Jaffa Gate for a 99-year lease which is renewable for an additional 99 years, through three front companies.

The Church claimed that former Church finance director Nikolas Papadimos was unauthorized to make the sale and was bribed by the Israelis.

However, several Israeli courts ruled that the Church failed to provide sufficient evidence to support their allegations.

The Hotel Imperial and the nearby Petra Hotel currently occupy the buildings.