Jerusalem Municipality Demands Christian Churches to Pay Off Tax Debts

© AP Photo/ Lefteris Pitarakis

© AP Photo/ Lefteris Pitarakis

Sputniknews – 26/2/18

JERUSALEM (Sputnik) – The Jerusalem Municipality intends to recover 650 million shekels (almost $187 million) from Christian denominations as taxes for their real estate located in the city, Mayor Nir Barkat has said.

“The debts for commercial space owned by churches exceed 650 million shekels. We will no longer demand that the citizens of Jerusalem bear this burden and subsidize this colossal debt,” Barkat said in a statement, released on Sunday by the mayor’s office press service.

The municipal authorities demand that Christian denominations pay municipal taxes for all real estate, except for churches themselves, and have already started arresting bank accounts, demanding a penalty for previous years.

“In Jerusalem, everyone is equal before the law — Christians, Muslims and Jews. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, like all the churches of Jerusalem, synagogues and mosques, is exempt from municipal tax. There are no changes in this respect,” Barkat said.

The mayor noted, however, that commercial buildings such as hotels, retail and office space were subject to municipal tax, regardless of who owned them.

In response, Church leaders accused the city authorities of violating the long-standing status quo and closed the Temple of the Holy Sepulcher for pilgrims and tourists in protest.