Israel suspends plan to tax Jerusalem church properties
JERUSALEM (AP) — Jerusalem's mayor today suspended a plan to impose taxes on properties owned by Christian churches, backing away from a move that had enraged religious leaders and led to the closure of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said a professional team was being established to negotiate with church officials to "formulate a solution."
"As a result, the Jerusalem Municipality is suspending the collection actions it has taken in recent weeks," it said.
Roman Catholic officials issued a statement saying Christian leaders were holding consultations and would soon announce their response, including a decision on whether to reopen the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and leaders of other Christian denominations closed the famed church on Sunday to protest an order by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to begin taxing their properties.
The church is revered as the site where Jesus was crucified and resurrected, and the decision closed one of Jerusalem's most visited holy sites just ahead of the busy Easter season.
Barkat said his decision affected only commercial properties, such as hotels, restaurants and offices, and not houses of worship. He said other cities followed similar practices worldwide.