By Baruch Yadid, Jewish Press—
The Christian Greek Orthodox community in Bethlehem has been in a tumult in recent days following the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) intention to expropriate the lands of the Church of Nativity which belong to the Church.
A few days ago, 11 institutions associated with the Greek-Orthodox Church published a statement protesting the ongoing attempt by the PA to take control of the plaza in front of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
The proclamation, which was initiated by the Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, protests the harming of the Christian presence in Bethlehem, the forfeiting of their rights, the harm to the Church’s assets and the violation of their right to light Christmas trees on the plaza.
The protest was also joined by Michelle Freij, the son of former Bethlehem mayor Elias Freij.
The leaders of the Greek Orthodox community have accused the PA of working in recent years to put its hand on the area near the Church of the Nativity, property of the Orthodox Church and turn it over to the municipality of Bethlehem and the PA’s local government office.
The protest has spread through social media networks, prompting the Bethlehem City Council to announce that it does not intend to harm the various sectors and will maintain the status quo in the city.
A church official told TPS that for three years, one of the Catholic Church’s leaders, Ibrahim Faltas, has been working with Bethlehem’s Mayor Anton Salman, a Catholic as well, to take over the Greek Orthodox Church’s lands.
He said the two became good friends while participating in negotiations during the 2002 crisis that took place in the Church of the Nativity in which terrorists barricaded themselves there and left only after extensive negotiations. The two are considered in Bethlehem to be PA operatives and close to the Fatah.
The official added that while the PA has recently announced through the municipality that it does not intend to discriminate against any of the communities or take over the land, the Greek Orthodox Church leaders are aware of the authority’s efforts to gain control of their property. Continue Reading…