Church Of The Holy Sepulchre Closed Over Municipal Tax Row
Christian leaders have shuttered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in protest of plans by the Jerusalem municipality to collect property tax from church-owned lands that do not include houses of worship. The municipality announced the move two weeks ago, informing federal ministries, which previously prevented the city from collecting such taxes, that the new initiative would apply to 887 assets and generate almost $200 million in additional revenue. Contributing to the anger is a proposed government bill that would expropriate land sold by the church to private buyers, the rationale being that rental prices on any such properties could thereafter be raised substantially. Moreover, long-term leases—in many cases up to a century—of church-owned lands to various organizations primarily based in Jerusalem have not been renewed as expected, prompting speculation that churches could be planning mass sell-offs to pay down debts, a practice that has become increasingly common in recent years. In response, Christian authorities described the Israeli moves as a “systematic campaign of abuse against churches and Christians.” The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in particular, is one of the holiest places in Christianity with nearly 2 million pilgrims visiting each year. According to scripture, Jesus rose from the dead after being entombed at the site following his crucifixion.