Palestinian Muslims and Greek Orthodox Christians joined their voices in protest on Saturday, expressing their objection to the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos’ decision to sell property of historical and religious significance.
According to Palestinian Wafa news agency, the protest, which took place outside of the Jaffa Gate entrance to occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City, was the result of an initiative taken by the Palestinian Arab Greek Orthodox community, which called for the resgination of Patriarch Theophilos and his synod and their replacement by a Palestinian Arab clergy. Holding banners reading “Theophilos is Unworthy”, around 300 protesters (as estimated by the Israeli ‘Ha’aretz’), accused the Patriarchate of “treason”, thus condemning the decision to sell or lease church property in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Nazareth, and other areas to Jewish Israeli investors. Protesters noted that the Greek Orthodox church, one of the largest real estate owners in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, has a responsibility to protect Palestinian lands, and not hand them over to Israeli developers, effectively contributing to Israeli plans to “Judaise” Jerusalem, the Jewish Press reports.
Usually, this accusation of “Jewification”, is used to describe the sell of traditionally Arab neighbourhoods in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, but according to ‘Ha’aretz’, this time the protests is about central Jerusalem areas, Nayot, Talbieh and Rehavia, which have been under Israeli rule since 1948.
‘Ha’aretz’ was critical of the protest, stating that “the Greek church is run by exclusively Greek clergy who minister to an exclusively Arab congregation”, which watches “helplessly” as their religious leaders (most notably former Patriarch Irinaios, who was ousted in 2005, accused of corruption) have been selling property to the Jewish people.