Rehavia building 521.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Formalities and niceties at a Tuesday meeting between President Reuven Rivlin and Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, at the President’s Residence did not blur the real purpose of the meeting: growing concern over the sale of Church property to real estate developers.
Residents of the capital’s Rehavia, Talbiyeh and Nayot neighborhoods are distressed over the potential loss of their apartments without compensation should developers decide to make use of the land on which the apartments are standing when their leases end over the coming years, and even that the existing leases may not be binding on the new owners.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and members of the city council have taken up the matter, as has the Justice Ministry, but there are many complicated issues to resolve.
Meanwhile, Theophilos is taking flack from owners of homes in these neighborhoods and members of his own Greek community even though many of the transactions were carried out during the administration of his predecessor, Irenaios, who was unseated and stripped of his authority in 2005 following allegations that he had sold Church land. Still, there also have been recent sales during the administration of Theophilos, and his career is now also under threat.
Rivlin grew up in Rehavia, but it is not known whether his childhood home is affected.
In welcoming the Greek Patriarch, he voiced appreciation for the contribution of the Christian community to Jerusalem and all Israeli society.
“All who understand the history of this land know the significance and holiness of Jerusalem. While we have different beliefs, we live together side by side in the Holy Land,” he said, also speaking about the places in which he played as a boy.
Theophilos attempted to be reassuring.
“You know our commitment to the beloved holy city,” he said. “The Patriarchate continues to respect its relations with the State of Israel, despite some challenges
over the years.”