Ateret Cohanim is trying to undermine the Christian presence in the Holy Land, seizing Christian properties. Three Church-owned buildings seized by the radical group in the Old City are the flashpoint. The Patriarchate suggests they were taken through fraud and plans a lawsuit to regain them.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The Jewish extremist group Ateret Cohanim is trying to undermine the Christian presence in the Holy Land, by trying to seize their assets. One example is a lawsuit filed in the Supreme Court to gain control of three Church properties near the Jaffa and al-Mu'athamiyah gate in Jerusalem
In a note to AsiaNews, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem writes that “changing the Status Quo in the Old City of Jerusalem [. . .] threatens the continuous hundreds-of-years old mosaic and balance that shores [up] the good relations between Jerusalemites of different faiths.”
For the Patriarchate, its properties “within the walls of Old City [. . .] are for the service of pilgrims and visitors of the Holy City especially those on the pilgrim route to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.” Hence, it “will continue to exercise its right and duty of defending itself, the holy sites and the Church heritage.”
Noting the "support" of other Christian Churches and denominations in the Holy Land, the Patriarchate claims to have "unequivocal evidence" backing its legitimate possession of properties.
At the centre of the controversy is the acquisition of three buildings belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church and now owned - according to a court ruling - to the Jewish extremist group Ateret Cohanim.
In June, in a surprisingly quick decision, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected the appeal of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, because the transaction took place through foreign intermediaries and no irregularities could be found.
The properties are in the Palestinian part of Jerusalem, occupied and annexed by Israel. In the past Christian leaders of the Holy Land have complained about actions taken by the Jewish group, which has long promoted seizing and acquiring buildings in the Christian part of the Old City.
Ateret Cohanim wants to judaise the Holy City and, through intermediaries and third-party companies, has already taken over several properties in the area.
The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate claims to have "clear proof of corruption" perpetrated over time by the Jewish group and its director general, Mati Dan, vis-à-vis local institutions, including the Municipality of Jerusalem, "resulting in the weakening of" the Christian position.
The lawsuit brought in court by Ateret Cohanim is allegedly based on "forged documents" and bribes; in 2004 the same group bribed a Patriarchate employee, Nicholas Papadimas, to obtain false evidence concerning the sale of the properties.
Despite the heavy demands of the court case in terms of money and time, the Patriarchate considers the Old City of Jerusalem a "red line" and the "core of Christian belief". For this reason, it intends to "defend the principles and reclaim its properties, whether through judicial or diplomatic efforts, and in cooperation with the promoters of peace”.
Finally, the statement ends saying that the Patriarchate “has filed a new lawsuit" against Ateret Cohanim in order “to overturn the decision of the court”.