Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) is backing down from a controversial plan to expand a national park onto Christian holy sites on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives. According to “The Times of Israel” the decision was announced on Monday following fierce opposition from local Christian leaders.
A threat to Christian presence in the Holy Land
Although it would have not stripped the landholders of their ownership, the move would have given the Israeli Government some authority over Palestinian and Church properties and religious sites, leading Church officials and rights groups to view the measure as a power grab and a threat to the Christian presence in the Holy Land.
Joint letter to Israeli authorities
In a joint letter addressed last week to Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg, Catholic Church Custos of the Holy Land Francesco Patton, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theopolis III, and Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem Nourhan Manougian expressed their “gravest concern and unequivocal objection” to the plan, saying it would disrupt the longstanding state of affairs and it was aimed to “confiscate and nationalize one of the holiest sites for Christianity and alter its nature.”
The Christian leaders also claimed there was a hidden ideological agenda behind the measure against Christians in Jerusalem.
Following the outcry, INPA announced on Monday it was freezing the plan, which was to be approved on March 2 by Jerusalem’s planning committee. The Authority said it has “no intention of advancing the plan in the planning committee and it is not ready for discussion without coordination and communication with all relevant officials, including the churches, in the area.”