Theophilos: Settler associations seek to control patriarchal properties

 The churches of the Holy Land are living in a state of alert, self-defense and existence these days, in light of the rampant campaigns of extremist Israeli groups against churches and their real estate in conjunction with measures that the churches view as targeting the Christian presence in general in the Holy Land, especially the city of Jerusalem .

The battle against extremist Israeli associations is led by Patriarch Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem and all the works of Palestine and Jordan, who was able to make great achievements in this field at the international level, creating a state of European and American sympathy and solidarity around the churches of the Holy Land, the Christians of Palestine and the Christian heritage in general as a basic component The history of the region, especially the city of Jerusalem, which by its nature disturbs the Israeli right and its spearhead in the battle of forging the identity of the Holy City, the extremist Israeli associations.

Patriarch Theophilos III does not hide his positions rejecting the attempts of extremist Israeli associations to influence the identity of Jerusalem, but more than that, he announced the battle to defend the Christian presence in the city, protect the Christian heritage there, and secure the arrival of Christian pilgrims to it on the first day since his election as Patriarch of Jerusalem in 2005.

Al-Quds newspaper had the following meeting with His Beatitude:

Great dangers

Q- What are the dangers facing the Christian presence in the Holy Land?

C- People in general, regardless of their religion, face great dangers in the Holy Land as a result of the instability and the absence of the prospect of achieving a just and comprehensive peace in the Holy Land. This situation makes Christians more targeted and vulnerable than others by the influential parties, especially the Zionist associations Extremists who committed terrorist crimes against churches, clergy, economic interests, and ordinary people. These terrorist crimes are practiced with great intensity in the Christian quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, so that the citizens there feel that they are in danger inside their homes that they inherited from their parents and grandparents for hundreds of years.

These terrorist crimes carry significant negative psychological effects, tire citizens and affect even tourism and the economy more broadly, as many of these crimes are committed at the entrances to the Christian Quarter in the Old City, which is the historical route taken by pilgrims during their visit to the Holy City. Let us take the Bab Al-Khalil area, which is the most important entrance to the town. In addition to the extremists’ harassment and crimes against civilians and defenseless clerics, their government-licensed associations have been seeking, since 2004, to seize the properties of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem there “the Imperial Hotel and Petra” and cut off the historic Christian pilgrims’ path through A suspicious deal, filled with bribery, forgery and deception against the patriarchate itself by people from inside and outside it, they received protection and care from these associations and their supporters, even though we pursued them and put them on the wanted lists of Interpol and their country’s police.


Q - Can your Beatitude identify the parties that target the Christian presence in Jerusalem?

C- Certainly, the extremist Zionist groups mistakenly believe that they have an exclusive right to dispose of the Holy City, and base their false belief on an abnormal ideology, especially the Ateret Cohanim Association, which is condemned by a large number of Israelis and the international community because of its pursuit of an approach that seeks to replace it. He shares the extremist ideology, the place of the owners of this city and their historical institutions, such as the Orthodox Church, which has existed in Jerusalem for nearly two thousand years, and Christianity was launched from it all over the world. We will do everything we can to protect the Christian presence and heritage in the Holy City, despite their practices and those of their accomplices.

Existential danger

Q- What is the danger facing the churches?

The real danger to Christians can be summed up in the situation of Christians in Jerusalem, in addition to the general political and security situation, the narrow economic situation and the scarcity of job opportunities that all the city’s residents suffer from, the extremist Zionist associations are chasing them to seize their real estate and their identity and steal their deeply rooted history in Jerusalem, so the number of Christians was In Jerusalem in the fifties of the last century, there were about 30,000, but today it is about 10,000. Can anyone claim that such a decrease in numbers could be natural? Of course not, there is an organized effort to reduce the number of Christians in Jerusalem, and the extremist Zionist associations implement most of these efforts.

A demand for protection

Q- What do you expect from the authorities in the Holy Land?

C- The authorities in the Holy Land, especially Israel, must provide protection for the spiritual and cultural identity of Christian places, ensure a safe life for all, including Christians, and not allow extremist Zionist associations to carry out their crimes against the people of Jerusalem, its citizens, and its institutions that differ with it in ideology and that reject its current tendencies in Holy city.

The violence that is being practiced against the clergy and Christians in general, and their religious and social institutions as well, must stop and the authorized authorities must assume their responsibilities in dealing with these terrorist crimes. In addition, we demand respect for the status quo and the decisions of international organizations, including UNESCO, to protect the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Christian Quarter.

Rehavia case

Q - We recently heard news that the Israeli courts have imposed fines of about 13 million dollars in relation to the Rehavia land case? Can you explain it?

C - The issue of Rehavia lands dates back to a hundred years ago when the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate purchased a total of 582 dunums in stages at the beginning of the British Mandate, in order to provide job opportunities for citizens in the field of agriculture, especially after a long period of suffering that culminated in the First World War. These lands were used for agriculture until 1948, when the citizens of those areas sought refuge from Jerusalem, and these lands were left empty. In 1951 and 1952, these lands were leased to the National Fund for the Jewish People in a very strange deal that gives the lessee the right to automatically extend the contract of tasting for periods without a ceiling, according to amounts determined by an Israeli authority!!! When I read the contract that was signed before I was born, I could not believe the unfair provisions it brought to the patriarchate that owns the land.


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