Church of the Holy Sepulcher May Close Due to Unpaid Water Bill

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So here’s the skinny: the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on what is believed to be the site of both the Crucifixion and the temporary tomb of Jesus, has been hit with a $2.1 million water bill from an Israeli water company. It seems that the church had been granted a unique exemption from paying for such utilities, but now, for whatever reason, it must make up for literally decades of past usage.

The Greek Orthodox Church, which oversees the operation of the site, is refusing to pay up. And so:

Its bank accounts have been blocked because of the dispute, according to Maariv, leaving the church unable to pay its priests or expenses, including electricity and telephone bills.

“Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III has spoken (to church officials) about taking measures… in protest at Israeli actions against the church,” said Dimitri Diliani, president of the National Christian Coalition in the Holy Land.

“He is consulting with the heads of churches to take the drastic measure of shutting down the Church of the Holy Sepulchre,” Diliani, a Greek Orthodox Palestinian, told AFP.

“It’s not a matter of money, it’s a change in the status quo that has protected the church for hundreds of years, it’s a way to pressure the churches and to introduce new Israeli-designed measures,” said Diliani.

Jerusalem and other locales where Jesus and the disciples walked are certainly of historical interest, as Christianity is rooted in a very specific history. But when it comes to “holy” sites and pilgrimages and such, well, I’ve written about that here and feel no need to repeat myself.

What I wish someone would repeat is why this exemption policy has been reversed suddenly — and why anyone would expect even a church with extensive land holdings simply to cough up more than $2 million without warning.

The General Secretary of the Patriarchate, Archbishop of Constantina Aristarchos, . . . said the church was willing to pay water bills from now on, but that the accumulated debt, stemming back years, would be problematic.

“We trust God and hope that people will help us,” he said, adding that the Patriarchate has sent letters to Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Maariv said that for decades there had been a tacit agreement between the church and a former mayor of Jerusalem, exempting the Patriarchate from paying for water piped to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

A spokesman for [water company] Hagihon, however, said the law did not permit the company to make such exemptions.

And so it waited decades to say something?

There’s something fishy going on here.

Oh, which reminds me: the first person to comment referencing Jesus’s walking on water, stilling the waters, turning water into wine, being the only source of living water is banned from this blog for 20 minutes.

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