Church leaders in Jerusalem said today in a joint statement that an Israeli court’s ruling on the property of the Greek Orthodox Church at Jaffa Gate of the occupied old city of Jerusalem threatens Christian presence in the holy city.
“We, the Heads of the Churches and Christian Communities in Jerusalem stand united in our commitment to safeguard the historical Status Quo of the Holy Sites and rights of the Churches which are universally recognized,” said the church leaders.
“The case of Jaffa Gate threatens this Status Quo. We are concerned by the recent judgment of the District Court of Jerusalem, which dismissed evidence demonstrating the Greek Orthodox Church case. We strongly support the efforts of the Greek Orthodox Church in their plea for justice.”
The Greek Orthodox Church is battling in court Jewish settlement organizations seeking to take over its Jaffa Gate property under the pretext of ownership, a claim strongly contested by the church.
“We don’t see this case as a mere property dispute. We see the undertaking of radical groups to take control of properties at Jaffa Gate as a systematic attempt to undermine the integrity of the Holy City, to obstruct the Christian pilgrim route and to weaken the Christian presence in Jerusalem,” said the 13 church leaders.
They called on the Israeli government “to act in order to safeguard the integrity of the Christian heritage and patrimony in the Old City, as well as the Holy Sites and the rights of the residents of the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem.”
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“These are places which over two billion Christians around the world look at as the very heart of their faith; which millions of Christian pilgrims visit each year; and in which the local Christians live out their faith,” they said.
“Israel’s strategy is predicated on the idea that a combination of factors – immense economic hardships, permanent siege and apartheid, the severing of communal and spiritual bonds – will eventually drive all Christians out of their Palestinian homeland,” wrote Palestinian journalist and editor of The Palestine Chronicle Ramzy Baroud in a recent article.
“Israel is keen to present the ‘conflict’ in Palestine as a religious one so that it could, in turn, brand itself as a beleaguered Jewish state in the midst of a massive Muslim population in the Middle East. The continued existence of Palestinian Christians does not factor nicely into this Israeli agenda,” Baroud added.
(Palestine Chronicle, WAFA, Social Media)