The Armenians of Jerusalem are angered by state and local authorities’ somewhat unexpected decisions to impose taxes on the Christian communities’ property and expropriate the land lots sold by the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches (since 2010).
Archimandrite Koryun Baghdasaryan, the Armenian patriarche of Jeursalem, says they are determined to keep the Holy Sepulchre church closed “as long as both measures are annulled”.
The Armenian Apostolic, Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches (which share the Holy Sepulchre’s property management) on Sunday closed the church’s doors as a sign of protest agaisnt the bills.
The first decision, issued by the Jerusalem municipality, requires that the Christian churches and monastries (which were earlier exempt from any taxation) regularly pay taxes to the City Hall.
“The decision is unacceptable for all the Christian communities,” the patriarch told Tert.am.
As for the exproriation bill (which is still subject to discussions and debates by the Knesset), it may allow the State of Israel to establish ownership rights to the entire land property which, in the past couple of years, was sold to real estate companies by the churches.
“Should the bill pass [the parliament], it will potentially be a real restriction. The state is, in that way, restricting all kinds of transactions between churches and individual entrepreneurs,” he noted.
Baghdasaryan said he knows that a Knesset committee has postponed a scheduled discussion over the bill.
“After the committee meeting, it was expected to go to into the Knesset agenda. We are now conducting a protest to prevent the bill from being debated and going to the Knesset to be later signed into law. The Knesset committee discussion has been rescheduled for a week, but we aren’t satisfied with that. We have a demand for having the [draft] legislation annulled. Also, we call for annulling the municipality decision on taxes and duties,” the patriarch added.