“This radical group has no right or judicial backing in their favor to allow them to enter or occupy the land,” said the Patriarchate in a statement. It also condemned the fact that the raid took place with the protection of armed Israeli police and border guards.
The Patriarchate affirmed that this piece of land, known as ‘the red land’, is five dunums in size (around 1.2 acres) and has been leased to the Palestinian Sumrin family, from Silwan, by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem since the beginning of the last century.
The Sumrin family is still cultivating it to this day, it said, explaining that, “this intrusion is a clear encroachment on the Patriarchate’s properties in Jerusalem.”
The Patriarchates said that this incident represents “a direct reaction of the radical Israeli groups to the Patriarchate’s criticism of their expansionist practices that are being deliberately targeted against the Christian churches in Jerusalem,” made clear by Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III in his speech during the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Jaffa Gate on December 16.
It said that an attempt was made to attack this land previously in 2008 when the Israeli municipality of West Jerusalem tried to use it. “The Patriarchate went to court, fighting a judicial proceeding against the municipality, only to be surprised that an Israeli radical organization possessed documents linking this plot of land to the suspected forgery deal in 2004, which included the properties of Jaffa Gate,” explained the Patriarchate.
“The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem stresses its commitment to all its rights, properties, and endowments, and that it will spare no effort to protect and defend its rights, and that it will not retreat from defending the Orthodox rights, which the Church and its people have adopted unanimously since His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III assumed his position as Patriarch of Jerusalem in 2005,” concluded the statement.
European Union diplomats yesterday expressed their deep concern over the Israeli settlers’ takeover of the church property in Silwan.
“The EU missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah express their deep concern over the implications of this action on the property rights of the Christian Churches in Jerusalem, including in the Old City. Attempts to take over the property of Christian Churches must be halted, as they pose a serious threat to the peaceful coexistence of all three monotheistic religions in Jerusalem,” they said in a statement, calling for protecting the status quo and preserving the character of Jerusalem and its Old City, as well as the holy sites, including Christian ones.
World Council of Churches acting general secretary Ioan Sauca also called on Israel to respect international law and holy places in Jerusalem.
“We call for respect for international law, and we especially appeal to Israeli authorities to abide by international law, to restore and protect property rights, and to pursue justice,” he said. “We reiterate our insistence on the duty to guarantee human rights, and the need for peace and decent living conditions for all.”