10350934835_3b083aeb27_b
Jorge Láscar/Flickr

Church leaders have said that they will finally reopen the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Wednesday, after shutting it down in protest due to a newly proposed tax plan that was to impose taxes on church properties in the holy city.

Several major denominations, including the Roman Catholic and Green Orthodox churches, said in a joint statement that the church would reopen after being closed for three days. The Israeli tax plan had enraged religious leaders, and took action by shutting down one of the most important holy sites right ahead to the busy Easter season. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is believed as the site where Jesus was laid to rest.

In addition to shutting down the church, leaders released a letter accusing Israel of conducting a “systematic and offensive campaign” against Christians and trying to “weaken the Christian presence in Jerusalem.”

The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that a professional team would meet with church representatives to find a solution regarding municipal taxation of church assets that aren’t houses of worship. Church leaders welcomed the “constructive intervention of the prime minister” as written in a statement.

For now, “the Jerusalem municipality is suspending the collection actions it has taken in recent weeks,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement. The Jerusalem municipality had recently issued orders to tax commercial church properties such as hotels, saying they shouldn’t enjoy the same tax breaks that houses of worship do.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat stressed that his decision affected only the commercial properties not houses of worship, and said other cities followed similar practices worldwide.

“As the mayor of the city of Jerusalem, my goal and role is to make sure people pay their taxes,” he said in an interview. “We have no negative or bad intentions here.”

The statement from Church leaders said “the churches look forward to engage” with the team to ensure Jerusalem “remains a place where the three monotheistic faiths may live and thrive together.” The churches accused Barkat of undermining the status quo and acting in bad faith. They say their non-church properties still serve religious purposes by providing services to pilgrims and local flocks.

In addition to suspending tax collection, Netanyahu’s office said that proposed legislation governing the sale of church lands in Jerusalem was also being suspended.

More from Beliefnet and our partners
previous posts

A new video by The Lincoln Project, a newly formed Republican organization against Donald Trump, mocks Trump supporters for worshiping “The MAGA Church.” The ad intertwines clips of Trump talking about faith with videos of him speaking crudely. It also features Bible verses, such as Matthew 7:15 which states “Beware of false prophets, which come […]

Georgia Rep. Barry Loudermilk is generating a lot of buzz right now for comparing the impeachment process of President Donald Trump to the Trial of Jesus. Loudermilk whose district covers a large part of Atlanta’s northern suburbs, spoke at Trump’s impeachment hearing and made these controversial remarks: “When Jesus was falsely accused of Treason, Pontius […]

Less Americans are giving to charity and it may not be for the reason you’re thinking. Giving has dropped significantly between 2000 and 2016 according to a study released from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and Vanguard Charitable. This decline points to 20 million fewer households donating to charity versus 2000. Money […]

By Kenneth Foard McCallion Impeachment has often been described as a political process. But the current impeachment inquiry unfolding in Congress is also, in a fundamental sense, a moral and ethical challenge for all Americans. Before we can take a position as to whether a sitting president should be impeached and removed from office, we […]