Palestinian Church Leaders, US Lawmakers Slam Israeli Expansion of ‘National Park’

The Mount of Olives is a major site of Christian pilgrimage. (Photo: Nemo, via Wikimedia Commons)

Palestinian church leaders and US lawmakers have raised concerns over a controversial plan to expand a national park and to nationalize a large section of the Mount of Olives, one of Christianity’s holiest sites, the Middle East Monitor reported.

The Mount of Olive has been, since ancient times, a major site of pilgrimage for Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox and Protestants.

Israeli newspaper The Times of Israel reported that the Israeli plan is slated to come before the Jerusalem municipality’s Local Planning and Construction Committee for preliminary approval on March 2. The hearing was originally scheduled to take place on April 10 but was recently moved up.

A visiting delegation of Democrats from the US House of Representatives have expressed their concerns over the plan as have leading church officials and rights groups who have characterized the measure as a power grab and a threat to Christian presence in the Holy Land.

US lawmakers raised the potential Israeli takeover of Christian holy sites with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during a meeting last week. Prior to Israel’s creation in 1948, Palestinian Christians were the second largest religious community, making up more than eleven per cent of the total population. The waves of ethnic cleansing which the Palestinians call the Nakba (“Catastrophe”) has reduced their number to its present “extinction” level.

Israel’s violent capture, illegal annexation and military occupation of Jerusalem has accelerated the flight of Palestinian Christians from their country.

Human rights groups have described Israel’s rule over the territory as a form of apartheid under which Christian Palestinians are also treated like second and third-class citizens.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

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