Armenian Jerusalem
This project has been supported by the Gulbenkian philanthropic Foundation, the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and members of the worldwide Armenian community. Reproductions of the genealogical documents [domar’s] are courtesy Photo Garo, Jerusalem. Copyright © 2007 Arthur Hagopian


The assembly of Christian churches in Jerusalem have voiced "grave concern"

over new moves by the Israeli government to tax vacant church properties.

While previous such moves have ended in failure, the Israelis have not tried

hard to mask their intention to persist in their efforts to impose an "arnona"

(property tax) on properties owned by the various churches which have been

unoccupied for some time.

                 The   assembly,   the   Heads   of   Churches   of   the   Holy   City   of   Jerusalem,   a   loose   conglomeration   of the   13   Christian   churches   officially   recognized   by   the   Israeli   State,   warned   of   dire   consequences should Israel  not desist.                   Relations   between   the   Israeli   government   and   the   Christian   churches   are   governed   by   an protocol promulgated in the 19th Century during the Ottoman administration of the Holy Land.                   Under   a   set   of   agreements   which   set   into   cement   the   status   quo   at   the   time,   the   Ottomans pledged to exempt church properties from taxation and granted them several privileges.                One   Ottoman   ruler,   Sultan   Chakmak,   even   went   so   far   as   to   damn   any   "accursed   or   son   of accursed"   who   dared   impugn   on   the   rights   and   privileges   of   the   Armenian   church.   His   edict   is engraved   in   a   marble   plaque   that   hangs   at   the   entrance   to   the   Convent   of   St   James,   seat   of   the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.                Subsequent   administrators   of   the   Holy   Land,   like   the   Jordanians,   expressed   their   support   of the status quo and adhered to its tenets.                The   churches   warned   that   "any   erosion   of   the   understanding   of   the   status   quo   agreements between   the   State   of   Israel   and   Christian   churches   threatens   the   well-being   of   the   Christian churches   and   their   ability   to   continue   the   various   ministries   of   pastoral   care,   education   and health care which they provide."                   The   churches   claimed   any   moves   by   Israeli   authorities   to   impose   the   "arnona"   would   be   in contravention   of   the      so-called   "status   quo"   agreements   which   have   governed   relations   between the churches and governments since Ottoman times.                The   assembly   noted   that   the   status   quo   agreements   have   been   recognized   as   authoritative   by Israeli    government    officials    and    spokesmen    say    they    fail    to    understand    why    the    current administration is moving in an opposite direction.                   The   Heads   of   Churches   of   the   Holy   City   of   Jerusalem   comprises      the   three   Patriarchs   (Greek, Latin   and Armenian),   and   the      archbishops   and   bishops   who   head   the   13   Christian   churches   which include  the Copts, Ethiopians, Assyrians or Syriacs and the Protestants.                The   Heads   of   Churches   affirmed   their   support   for   the   Armenian   church   "to   continue   to encourage   Israeli   authorities   to   respect   t   the   status   quo   understanding   which   provides   for   the   tax- free status of church-owned properties."                "The   Heads   of   Churches   believes   this   respect   is   essential   for   the   ongoing   health   of   the relationship   between   the   three Abrahamaic   faiths   which   exist   in   Israel   as   well   as   the   relationship each has with the government of Israel," the statement said.                The   assembly   also   voiced   its   support   for   the   Bishop   of   the   Episcopal   Diocese   of   Jerusalem,   Rt Rev Suheil Dawani, "in his pursuit of justice through the Israeli court system."                  The   statement   alleged   the   Bishop   has   been   falsely   accused   of   forgery   and   of   transferring   lands owned   by   Jews   to   the   Palestinians   and   of   helping   to   register   lands   of   Jewish   people   in   the   name of his church.                   In   view   of   what   Israeli   authorities   view   as   serious   charges,   they   have   revoked   the   residence permits of the bishop and his family.                   "Bishop   Dawani   has   sought   to   resolve   this   issue   quietly   without   resort   to   any   publicity   since August of 2010 without success," the statement added.
Church of All Nations