The Administration Must Stand Up for the Christian Community in Jerusalem and the Holy Land
In February, the Israeli Knesset first considered legislation that would allow for state expropriation of Church lands. After intense outcry, including the closure of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in protest, and a letter from eighteen U.S. religious leaders, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced a hold on the legislation and appointed Minister Tzachi Hanegbi to work with all parties, including Church leaders to work toward a solution. After a meeting with Minister Hanegbi in mid-September, Church leaders in Jerusalem were stunned to see the legislation once again under consideration in the Knesset. While Prime Minister Netanyahu delayed the planned vote, it will once again be placed in the Legislative Committee of the Knesset on Sunday, November 4. The legislation remains a significant threat to the Status Quo and the sustainability of the Christian community in the Holy Land.
Stand in solidarity with the Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Call on Congress to pressure Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence to intervene directly with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
In a letter dated October 18, the heads of Churches in the Holy Land called on Prime Minister Netanyahu “to stop this bill once and for all.” On Sunday October 22, when the legislation was originally scheduled for a vote, Representative Gus Bilirakis wrote to Prime Minister Netanyahu expressing his concerns on behalf of the International Religious Freedom Caucus. The Prime Minister intervened, and the vote has subsequently been postponed until November 4. Further delaying the legislation is not enough; in order to maintain the Status Quo and help protect the Christian community in Jerusalem and the Holy Land it must be stopped entirely. Since 1967, the Status Quo has governed the relationship between the State of Israel and the religious institutions of the Holy Land.
On Oct. 31, Christian churches and agencies addressed a letter to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo regarding this issue. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ wee among the 15 signing institutions.
If passed, this legislation could radically diminish the strength of the Christian presence in Jerusalem by imposing severe financial constraints upon churches. The maintenance of international religious freedom should be of utmost importance for the United States.