JERUSALEM – Tuesday’s decision by Israeli authorities to suspend municipal taxes on church-owned property in Jerusalem paved the way for the reopening of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre after a three-day closure to protest the tax bill.
The church will open again to pilgrims Wednesday morning, the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic prelates responsible for Christianity’s holiest shrine said in a statement.
The announcement came hours after the Israeli government said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat “agreed to establish a professional team ... with the participation of all relevant parties, to formulate a solution for the issue of municipal taxes on properties owned by churches that are not houses of worship.”
Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi will chair the panel.
“The Jerusalem Municipality is suspending the collection actions it has taken in recent weeks,” Israel said in a statement released by Netanyahu’s office.
The suspension also applies to another issue in dispute, a bill presented in the Israeli parliament that would allow the retroactive expropriation of property sold by churches to companies or individuals.
That bill was set to discuss in the legislation committee last Sunday, but the debate was suspended after the custodians of the Holy Sepulchre closed the site to protest the municipal tax, calling the levy an attack on the Christian presence in the Holy Land.
A protest march was planned for Tuesday afternoon in the Christian quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, which has been occupied by Israel since 1967.