Palestinian Christians living in occupied Jerusalem are fighting back against Israeli attempts to take away their land. Their struggle to remain in the historic city was raised by Christian Today in a report today where the non-denominational Christian news agency said that “Christians in Jerusalem are warning of another attempt by Israeli parliamentarians to take land they own”.
Israeli lawmakers have made repeated attempts to confiscate or nationalise church-owned lands. The latest threat against the Christian community was made before Christmas; it is thought to be the fifth occasion on which factions within the governing coalition sought to impose legislation which would allow the expropriation of Church lands.
Previous attempts to impose the so-called “Tenants’ Rights Bill”, said Christian Today, received worldwide condemnation and even led to the temporary closure of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City – the historic site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.
The Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, who is the most senior Orthodox Christian leader in the region, has been highly critical of attempts to confiscate land from his and other churches. He has toured the USA and EU countries to lobby against the Israeli bill, which members of the right-wing coalition are trying to push through within the Israeli Knesset.
Publishing a new map yesterday, Ir Amim described an “accelerated, intensifying chain of new facts on the ground in the most historically contested and politically sensitive part of Jerusalem: the Old City and adjacent ring of Palestinian neighbourhoods”.
Ir Amim pointed to “a mounting number of state-sponsored settlement campaigns inside Palestinian neighbourhoods”, as well as “settler-initiated evictions of Palestinians, takeovers of their homes, and the expansion of settler compounds”, as well as the use of “touristic settlement sites” as “key points along a ring of tightening Israeli control”.
According to the group, the Israeli authorities have struggled over the decades to advance plans for settlements due to “the population density in the built-up areas of the Old City”. Some 100,000 Palestinians live in the Old City and its immediate environs, compared to 6,000 Israelis.