Nathan Schmidt / Bethlehem
Jordanian government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani affirmed Jordan’s ‘full solidarity’ with Jerusalem’s Christian leaders after their controversial decision to close the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Sunday in protest to what they describe as ‘racist’ legal measures taken by the Jerusalem municipality.
‘Momani emphasized that Jordan, under the historic Hashemite custodianship on Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, will continue to take all possible steps, to strengthen the steadfastness of Palestinians, protect holy sites and preserve the historical status of Jerusalem and its holy sites as a key to peace and a symbol of tolerance and harmony,’ read a statement on the Jordanian state website.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, under King Abdullah II, retains jurisdiction over the holy sites at Haram esh-Sharif. In a 2013 deal with the Palestinian Authority, Jordan retained ‘the right to exert all legal efforts to safeguard (the sites)’ according to the official website of King Abdullah II.
Momani warned of the seriousness of the proposed Israeli legislation, and that it may violate international law.
He called on all parties to embrace the historically religious diversity of Jerusalem and its importance to all faiths.
In an unprecedented move, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City was closed on Sunday, and will remain closed indefinitely in protest of municipal legislation that would allow Israeli authorities to expropriate Church land.
The heads of the churches who jointly manage the Church of the Holy Sepulchre announced the closure outside of the church on Sunday.
Copies of their written statement called the ‘Church Land’s Bill’ a ‘flagrant violation of the existing status quo’ that ‘breach(es) existing agreements and international obligations which guarantee the rights and privileges of the Churches, in what seems as an attempt to weaken the Christian presence in Jerusalem.’
‘The systematic campaign of abuse against Churches and Christians reaches now its peak as a discriminatory and racist bill that targets solely the properties of the Christian community in the Holy Land,’ the statement continued.
The religious leaders, representing the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, The Custody of the Holy Land, and the Armenian Patriarchate, likened the legislative measures to the ‘dark periods’ in Europe in which Jewish land was often subjugated and expropriated.
The bill in question concerns land that was sold by the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches since 2010.
Previously, the land, which amounts roughly 50 hectares and containing more than 1,000 housing units, was leased to the Jewish National Fund by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate for housing purposes.
The decision made by the Greek Orthodox authority to sell the land complicates the matter, and drew the ire of the Christian community in Israel and Palestine.
The new bill proposes that should any land leased by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate to the JNF or to any other party be sold, it would be assumed by the state who will compensate whoever makes the purchase.
The bill would grant the state ultimate authority over lands sold by the church.
The bill is set to be presented before a ministerial comity on Sunday.