The Jerusalem city hall has responded to the Christian communities’ concerns over the recently announced proposing texes for churches and monasteries.The mayor of the city has issued a statement saying that the legislation will apply only to “profitable church estate”, not the religious institution as such.But Archimandrite Koryun Baghdasaryan, the local Armenian patriarch, disagrees with the clarification, citing controversial provisions in the law.“The churches do pay taxes for profitable estate as it is, so the law in question clearly applies to churches and monasteries. This is why we are actually continuing the protest action now,” he told Tert.am on Tuesday.
The Armenian Apostolic, Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox communities closed the Holy Sepulchre church on Sunday to boycott the measure.
They haven’t ended the protest ever since despite the City Hall’s repeated assurances that the disputed measure doesn’t imply additional taxes and duties.In another controversial bill, the Israeli Knesset proposes establishing ownership rights to the land properties purchased from churches in the past couple of years.Baghdasaryan earlier said that they are determined to keep the church closed “until both decisions are annulled”.
The patriarch said he finds the protest historic because of its “political context implying also a violation of human rights”. He added that the three Christian churches, sharing the management of Holy Sepulchre, had earlier too, taken joint actions in support of common interests.
“Closing the church’s doors is also a historic moment – pursuing political objectives,” he added.
Asked about the expected financial burden, Nahapetyan said they estimate an annual tax duty of about $700,000. He added that they are more concerned over the principles given that the three Christian communities were for many centuries exempt from any taxes and fees.
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, has labeled the attempts to collect taxes on church-owned properties and advance a new property law as a “fresh attempt by Israel to maintain ‘Jewish control’ over Jerusalem and its holy sites”