Middle East

(UPDATED) Church of the Holy Sepulchre Threatens Temporary Closure Over Jerusalem Water Bill

Church's bank account frozen over decades of unpaid utility bills.

(Update: Bloomberg News reports that Israeli authorities reached a deal to end eight years of disagreement between the government the Church of the Holy Sepulchre over the church's US$2.3 million water bill debt. The Israeli government has agreed to cancel the outstanding debt, but the church will pay water bills from 2012 forward.)

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre may be located on one of the holiest sites in all Jerusalem–Calvary–but its historic location does not exempt it from paying utilities.

At least, that is the argument made by Jerusalem water company Hagihon, which recently began pressing the church to pay up on decades of water-bill debt. Until it does, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem's bank account remains frozen, leaving the church unable to pay salaries. The church has threatened to close for a day in protest.

The General Secretary of the Patriarchate, Archbishop of Constantina Aristarchos, told Reuters the church would be willing to pay for future utilities, but ...

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