JERUSALEM – The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, one of Christianity’s most sacred sites, reopened on Wednesday after Israel suspended municipal taxes on church-owned properties.
On Sunday, leaders of the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian churches decided to shut the holy site in protest over the tax bill.
“We are very happy Israel backed down. We hope everything goes well and pilgrims visit the church again,” local resident Wajih Nusseibeh told EFE shortly after the bells tolled.
The announcement to reopen the church came on Tuesday, hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat had decided to freeze the collection procedures.
“Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat have agreed to establish a professional team led by (Regional Cooperation) Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, 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,” an official statement said.
In addition to the tax bill, the Christian leaders also protested proposed legislation in the Israeli parliament that would allow the state to expropriate lands the churches have sold or leased to private investors.
The churches described the legislation as a “systematic campaign of abuse against churches and Christians.”