A Greek Orthodox priest watches pilgrims roam around the ancient church of nativity, where many Christians believe Jesus was born..
(photo credit: DOV LIEBER)
The Jerusalem District Court rejected the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate’s appeal to order the municipality to issue a form that is required to finalize a large-scale real estate deal in the neighborhoods of Rehavia, Nayot and others.
The requested form would indicate that the seller – the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in this case – has no debts regarding the properties. The form is needed to finalize their sale, and to transfer ownership. The Church had appealed against the municipality, saying it was deliberately not issuing the document in order to stall the transaction.
However, the court on Sunday decided to allow the municipality to continue its title search before issuing the approval document, and reaffirmed the municipality’s stance that a thorough check is needed in this kind of rare transaction.
“We are talking about hundreds, maybe thousands, of properties in approximately 246 plots in different parts of Jerusalem. Until the requested approval is granted, the respondents [the municipality] must check for any debt in each of the discussed properties,” Judge Eli Abravanel wrote in his decision.
The judge also stated that there is no ground to think that the municipality deliberately delayed in issuing the document. He added that the appeal is rejected out of the hope that in the coming months the municipality will respond to the Church’s request.
The sale of Church land to private entrepreneurs has raised concerns among people living on these properties.
Thousands of residents face uncertainties over their mortgages, and also have problems in upgrading their properties, such as installing elevators, due to their uncertain future.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat welcomed the court’s decision, and said that the municipality under his leadership will not allow residents to be harmed because of the real estate deal.
“This year we have tirelessly worked behind the scenes to help the residents, and we will continue to stand by their side until we will find a proper and definitive solution to this issue,” he said.
Attorney Yedidiya Loewenthal, representing the Greek Patriarchate, stressed that the court did not suspend the deal and said it simply gave the municipality several months to finish the process.
“Unfortunately, the court did not address in its verdict the fact that the municipality is exceeding its authority and is unlawfully stalling the issuance of the approval document,” he said. “Our procedures with the municipality have been going on over a year now, while according to the law it must give us the approval within three months.”
Loewenthal added that the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael- Jewish National Fund is the legal lessor of the properties, and it up to it to extend the lease periods for the residents.