“systematic campaign against the Churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land.
“The systematic campaign … reaches now its peak as a discriminatory and racist bill that targets solely the properties of the Christian community in the Holy Land. . . This reminds us all laws of a similar nature which were enacted against the Jews during dark periods in Europe.”
Church leaders have made it clear a number of times that they consider this a serious violation of their property rights and the status quo. Leaders have also announced they will fight the law both legally and diplomatically.
I understand that the church is stressed, but their lands remain their lands, no one has any interest to touch them at any time. My bill deals with what happens once the rights to the land are sold to a third party — it cannot be that developers go door to door threatening residents that they will have to pay between 200,000 and 500,000 shekels. The low amounts for which entire neighborhoods were sold makes clear the speculative nature of the deal. In this situation the Patriarch is not relevant to the matter because it involves lands sold to private developers.
Meanwhile, church representatives have accused Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat of breaching international treaties after the municipality said it planned to collect 650 million shekels ($186 million) in back taxes owned by churches and international bodies with property in the city.
Until now all church assets were granted exemptions from paying the arnona property tax, but last month the municipality announced that it begun collecting arnona from offices, schools and buildings owned by the churches and used for different purposes. At the same time, the municipality clarified that it will not collect arnona on houses of worship, which are exempt from tax.
“The Municipality of Jerusalem maintains a good and respectful relationship with all of the churches in the city, and will continue to look after their needs and protect their full religious freedom. Nevertheless, we will not be able to abide a situation in which only in Jerusalem hotels, banquet halls and commercial businesses are exempt from arnona only because they are church owned, and this is in contrast to Haifa and Tel Aviv, which do collect arnona from the churches' commercial assets.”