Israel: Plan to expand park to Church land sparks backlash
“Under the guise of protecting green spaces, the plan appears to serve an ideological agenda”
A plan by Israeli officials to expand a national park in Christian holy sites in East Jerusalem has drawn backlash from religious leaders, who have condemned the project as an “attack on Christians in the Holy Land”.
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) said the proposal – Plan 101-674788 – aims to preserve the landscapes of the sites, and that the authority aims to discuss the matter with relevant religious leaders, The Times of Israel (ToI) reported.
However, Christian leaders in Jerusalem, as well as a number of human rights organizations, remain unconvinced of the plan – which would expand the borders of Jerusalem’s Walls National Park to include parts of the Kidron and Ben Hinnom valleys, as well as the Mount of Olives. .
Custos of the Catholic Church of the Holy Land Francesco Patton, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theopolis III and Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem Nourhan Manougian wrote to Israeli Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg on Friday expressing their concerns.
The letter, obtained by HAVEdenounced the plan and said it “is orchestrated, advanced and promoted by entities whose only apparent purpose is to confiscate and nationalize one of Christianity’s holiest sites and alter its nature”.
“This is a brutal step that constitutes a direct and premeditated attack on Christians in the Holy Land, on the churches and their ancient, internationally guaranteed rights in the Holy City,” the letter continues.
“Under the guise of protecting green spaces, the plan appears to serve an ideological agenda that denies the status and rights of Christians in Jerusalem.”