Palestinians assault Greek Orthodox patriarch over selling land to Israelis

A violent Palestinian mob assaulted Theophilos III over his sale of church-owned lands to Israelis, a serious offense in Palestinian society.

By: World Israel News Staff

Palestinians in Bethlehem on Saturday assaulted Theophilos III, the patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, as he visited the city for the Greek Orthodox Christmas Eve.

Angry Palestinians swarmed his convoy as he made his way toward the Church of the Nativity. They scuffled with Palestinian police, threw stones and smashed windows of the car in which he was riding as they demanded he be stripped of his titles and removed from the church.

Heads of the municipalities of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour boycotted the reception, along with several religious organizations affiliated with the Greek Orthodox Church.

Theophilos III is accused of selling some 500 dunams (123.5 acres) belonging to the Orthodox Church in Jerusalem to Israeli entrepreneurs.

Palestinians critics have accused the patriarchate of contributing to alleged Israeli plans to “Judaize” Jerusalem by selling or leasing large amounts of land to Israeli authorities and businesspeople, supposedly betraying the church’s assumed responsibility to protect “Palestinian lands” that were handed under its care during the Ottoman period. The church is one of the largest real estate owners in the Holy Land.

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According to Palestinian law, the sale of Palestinian-owned land to Israelis is punishable by death.

Visits by Theophilus III in Bethlehem have been boycotted and disrupted in the past.