Protest in Jerusalem: pilgrimage site locked

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The Jerusalem church built at what many consider the holiest site in Christianity remained closed for a second day on Monday to protest Israeli tax measures and a proposed law.

However, its not clear when it would reopen, depending on discussions with Christian leaders and Israeli authorities.

The move has left hundreds of pilgrims locked outside and disappointed.

Christian leaders took the step of closing the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Sunday afternoon in a bid to pressure Israeli authorities into abandoning the measures.

They said the church, a major pilgrimage site where thousands visit daily, would be closed until further notice.

Disappointed tourists gathered Monday in front of its large wooden doors in Jerusalem’s Old City hoping they would have the chance to visit, some having difficulty understanding why it was closed.

Some held an improvised prayer around a wooden cross.

“We were told it’s political. It is disheartening — it is such a holy place,” said Aleana Doughty, a 35-year-old dental hygienist visiting with a group from the United States

Michael Katten and his wife Vanagakshi, visiting from India, were also locked out. Vanagakshi told Aljezira that she had promised to bring her mother something from the church and say a prayer.

“It is silly that they cannot solve this,” Michael Katten said.

Christian leaders are angry over attempts by Israeli authorities in Jerusalem to enforce tax collection on church property they consider commercial, saying exemptions only apply to places of worship or religious teaching.

They also say legislation being considered by Israel’s government would allow church property to be expropriated.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters in Brussels “we hope that a solution can be found quickly.”

“Jerusalem is a holy city to the three monotheistic religions. The special status and character of the city must be maintained and respected by all.”

The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, located near the Holy Sepulchre, was also closed in protest on Monday.

 

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