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Revered Israeli church reopens after tax protest

Revered Israeli church reopens after tax protest”

Christian leaders chose to reopen the Church of the Holy Sepulchre after Israel on Tuesday suspended tax measures they oppose.

Major denominations, including the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches, said in a statement that the church would reopen early Wednesday after being closed for three days to protest the Israeli tax plan.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, however, clarified that the property tax to be collected were for places of commerce that the churches also operate next to the house of prayers.

In response, church leaders issued their own statement praising the Prime Minister's decision as a "constructive intervention", while pledging their willingness to work together with state officials to insure that Jerusalem remains "a place where the three Monotheistic faiths may live and thrive together".

"This reminds us all of laws of a similar nature which were enacted against the Jews during dark periods in Europe".

The protest led an Israeli cabinet committee to delay for a week its consideration of the bill to allow expropriation of land sold by churches to real estate firms and foreign companies.

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Palestinians fear the sales will favour Israeli settlement construction in east Jerusalem, while Israelis are concerned over private developers' intentions for the land. He said some churches has been threatened with confiscation of property if the bills went unpaid, and churches were being charged retroactively for seven years.

The Municipality is also demanding that Churches pay these taxes retroactively, and has calculated them on assets and properties, as well as their bank accounts.

He stresses the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and all other churches are exempt, with the changes affecting only establishments such as "hotels, halls and businesses" owned by churches.

It includes the transfer of other security and administrative responsibilities to the Arab authorities in Areas A and B. The capital of the Palestinian state would be in eastern Jerusalem. By the 20th century, as Jerusalem grew, and was divided and reunited by war, the Christian population shrank. Israel sees the whole city as its undivided capital.

One of the holiest sites in Christianity has been shut down indefinitely in protest at new Israeli laws seemingly likened by religious leaders to Nazi persecution. Mr Barkat may also have hoped to put pressure on the finance ministry to help cover a local budget deficit. New neighbourhoods were built on plots leased from the churches, which are still the city's largest private landowners.

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