19 July 2017


The Greek Orthodox Church has sold off more of its real estate holdings in Israel including some of the ancient Roman ruins in Caesarea.


The Greek Orthodox Church has sold its rights to LAND IN REHAVIA and CENTRAL JERUSALEM to a group of real estate developers. This has caused a storm in the community and many are panic-stricken that they will lose their homes. They bought their homes with their life-savings from their former country (mostly English speakers), with the hope of spending their remaining years here, and then leaving their apartment to their children/grandchildren. Now the picture is bleak.

At one community meeting I attended, it was discussed:  Nachum FLeur-Hasan of the Iriyat Yerushalayim is spearheading investigative research and community owners’ involvement. They are delving into all the ramifications involved and indicate this is extremely complicated with myriad issues surrounding ownership, leasehold and buyer’s first rights, and many other legal terms.

The Church also owns land/property in Jaffa, Haifa, Caesarea, Jerusalem and maybe one other area. It seems they need the money and are, at least at the present, selling to Jewish buyers.

THE CHURCH LAND DILEMMA The issue of church land is rooted in the 1800s when the Greek Orthodox church and other Christian churches in Jerusalem started buying large tracts of land outside the Old City walls in the areas that are now Rehavia and Talbiyeh. Once the neighborhoods were built up, the churches agreed to grant 99-year leases for the land. Since these leases were signed in the 1950s, most of them will be expiring around the year 2050. According to current law, once the lease expires, owners who built on that land are not entitled to any compensation, and by law, the land and the buildings automatically revert back to the ownership of the church.


A group of Jewish businessmen has purchased “hundreds of dunams [quarter-acres]” of land from the Greek Orthodox Church. The report, on the Russian-language http://cursorinfo.co.il site, has not been corroborated by other sources. Details on the purchase were sparsely reported. The location was given as "prestigious Jerusalem neighborhoods," and the price was reported as approximately 80 million shekels ($22.6 million).

The properties are under lease, registered to the Israel Lands Authority until the year 2051. Negotiations in the 1990’s to have the Greek Orthodox Church extend the lease for another century were stymied by the Palestinian Authority. Buildings stand on most of the purchased lands.

The Greek Orthodox Church numbers about 100,000 faithful, most of them Arabs, and is considered the richest church in Israel. The Church Patriarch has responsibility for its extensive land holdings, which include the land on which the Knesset was built, the Prime Minister’s and the President’s official residences, parts of Jerusalem’s wealthiest neighborhoods, locations in the Old City, and parts of the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa. The acquisitions predate the establishment of the state of Israel. Some of these properties may have been sold in the recent deal.

The purchase agreement was signed by the leader of Greek Orthodoxy in Israel, Theophilus III. His predecessor, Irineos, was ousted because of accusations that he had planned to make a similar sale.

Theophilus, however, has still not taken a stand on a controversial sale several years ago of two hotels in the Old City, near the Jaffa Gate. to Jewish interests. Under heavy Palestinian Authority pressure, the Church later repudiated the sale, saying that Irineos' trusted financial advisor Nicholas Papedemes made the deal in Irineos' name, and then fled the country with the money. Though Irineos said he never authorized the Jaffa Gate transaction, Papedemes presented a document signed by Irineos authorizing him to carry out financial deals. ArutzSheva

The Greek Orthodox Church last week [July 4] sold 50 hectares of land in central Jerusalem – some 124 acres containing more than 1,000 housing units in numerous buildings – to an anonymous group of investors, spurring fears of a hostile takeover.

For many years, the land was leased to the Jewish National Fund in agreements that are about to expire, leaving the residents’ future rights in limbo. MKs Rachel Azaria and Akram Hasson of Kulanu, Yossi Yonah of Zionist Union, Mickey Levy of Yesh Atid and Uri Maklev of United Torah Judaism are scheduled to discuss the matter during a Knesset meeting on Wednesday.

“The land was leased by the church to JNF in the 1950s for 99 years,” […]“Buildings were constructed on it in which people have been living for decades. The residents knew that the agreements would expire within a certain time, but they assumed that the lease to JNF would be extended for a further period.”

“Following this, the city council received a flood of inquiries from residents of the area who did not know what the future held for them,” she said. “Last week, a large gathering of the residents was held by the Jerusalemites Party and addressed by council member Itai Gutler and architect Yehuda Greenfield. The residents are demanding to know who among them is affected by the agreement between the church and the developers and who is not, what the agreements say, and what they mean for them.”

“We are talking about people who have lived in these neighborhoods for decades and knew that they were dealing with JNF,” she said. “It’s not a matter of one building or a few families, but very large and prestigious neighborhoods in the heart of Jerusalem. Hundreds of residents who assumed that the lease from the church would be extended never imagined that they would find themselves having to deal with private developers who will suddenly hold the land when the lease agreements expire.”

Azaria added:  “In such a situation, they are liable to find themselves with nothing.”

“It is important that the state should intervene on the matter,” she said. “The value of the residents’ apartments is constantly falling, even in neighborhoods like Rehavia. Anyone who buys an apartment in these areas now is taking a risk, and that affects the value of the properties.”

“In a meeting with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Mayor Nir Barkat described dealing with this matter and [prioritizing] it at the highest level of importance,” the statement said. “Later, a meeting took place in the office of the director-general of the municipality, attended by representatives of JNF, the Justice Ministry and others, and it was decided that there should be further joint action by all the bodies involved in order to put an end to the residents’ uncertainty and to ensure continuation of the lease.”

The municipality statement continued:  “All state bodies are taking coordinated action via several channels, and the officials of the church are also expected to cooperate on the matter.”


Anonymous said...

In reality, all properties in EY should have been overtaken when it became a state. To allow such a chilul H' is another story. Of course, no one could own the Land other than the Jews; the Land really belongs to H' Who gave it to His children, Yisrael, for eternity. This will all be righted after Moshiach is here. No non-Jew is allowed to own even a grain of sand in E.Y. Hopefully, there won't be any problems for the Jewish residents (who really own their own respective properties)in the interim.

Neshama said...

You’re right of course. You just reminded me of something Reb Dov wrote to me on his blog. The metal detecters are there to keep “guns and all metal” off Har HaBayit because its Tumah! Same thing here, the GOC is selling its land because non-Jews are not allowed to own land in Eretz Yisrael! Thank you.

Neshama said...

BTW Mashiach is here, just most of us haven’t seen him. Some special privileged people know who he is!