Israel threatens church convents with self-demolition June 28, 2009

Bethlehem – Ma’an


At least 500 homes leased by the church to Christian families in the Old City are under threat for self-demolition orders by the Israeli Jerusalem municipality, church officials said Saturday.

According to a statement from the Jerusalem Inter-Church Centre there are currently four suits underway where Christian families leasing church land or buildings are being told to tear down alleged renovations on their homes.

Bassam Ayyash, who rents a 50 square meter apartment from the Greek Orthodox Church inside the Patriarchate’s convent, received a demolition order claiming that this 50 square meter apartment is an expansion to his home. According to the church, “Bassam is puzzled with the persistence of the authorities in not agreeing to come and investigate the matter.” “My only home is the 50 square meter apartment.”

Another defendant, Sami Wakileh, recalls the Judge at the Israeli court telling him, when he went seeking a permit for a renovation in his home, “It is a waste of your precious time. Do not dream of receiving any permit…” Sami’s house is, according to a church statement, an old building that he leased from the Church and spent over 100,000 US dollars to fix and renovate.

Most of the homes under threat are owned by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the Catholic Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.

One church leader blamed the increasing difficulty in obtaining permits to build homes, as well as the issue of family reunification where West Bank Palestinians are prohibited from living with their spouses in Jerusalem, for the drop in the number of marriages last year.

Father Ibrahim Faltas, the Roman Catholic Parish priest of Jerusalem, said the number of Catholic marriages in 2009 is almost half the number registered in previous years.


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