Dozens of heads of churches in the United States sent a letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressing 'concern' over the 'Properties Bill,' which has recently been advanced in the Knesset.
The bill would allow the Israeli government to seize lands which were sold by the Church to private investors and which have residential buildings. It was proposed by Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria following the sale of 124 acres of land in Jerusalem by the Greek Orthodox Church to anonymous investors. The land contains approximately 1,000 housing units.
The State would compensate any individual or company which purchased the rights to the land from the Church.
The churches warned that the bill, which has been signed by a majority of 61 MKs, would "allow state expropriation of Church lands."
"The extent to which the Jerusalem Patriarchs and Heads of Churches consider this legislation to be an existential threat cannot be overstated," the church leaders wrote. "When the bill was first introduced this past February (concurrently with a proposed municipal tax on church property) the Heads of Churches protested by closing the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in a historic act of solidarity. In response, eighteen religious leaders in the U.S., representing a diverse spectrum of Christianity, wrote to President Trump expressing the need to protect the vulnerable Christian community in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Mr. Secretary, all efforts must be made so that a similar crisis may be avoided."
They called on Pompeo to work with Israeli leaders to "ensure that this bill is halted permanently."
The letter was signed by Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
Armenian Orthodox Church
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Churches for Middle East Peace
Church of the Brethren
The Episcopal Church
Evangelical Covenant Church, Serve Globally
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Greek Archdiocese of America
National Council of Churches
Presbyterian Church (USA)
The United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society