Church leaders in Jerusalem took the unusual step of issuing a statement protesting a recent ruling by a court in the capital instructing the Greek Orthodox Church to sell three buildings in the Old City to a Jewish settler organization.

The statement also expressed opposition to an Israeli draft law transferring to the state ownership of church land sold to private citizens.
The statement, published on Monday, was signed by the heads of the Catholic, Ethiopian, Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Lutheran, Syrian and other churches in Jerusalem. In it they protest what they see as a major change to the status quo, and assert that the bill and the court’s ruling hurt not only the Greek Orthodox Church but also the standing of all of Jerusalem’s churches. …

The bill, submitted by MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu), states that all land belonging to the church that was sold to private investors be transferred to the state in return for compensation. The churches fear that if the bill passes, it will hurt their ability to make future real estate deals in Israel.

Two weeks ago, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that the deal in which Ateret Cohanim purchased two monumental buildings at Jaffa Gate and another building in the Muslim Quarter from the Greek Orthodox Church is valid. The court rejected the Church’s argument that it was a corrupt deal that should be voided.