Israel picks up hefty water bill for iconic church

Monday, December 10, 2012 |  Israel Today Staff

The Israeli government and the Jerusalem Municipality have agreed to pick up a $2.3 million water bill for the iconic Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The agreement comes after years of heated disagreement between the church and Jerusalem's Gihon Water Company.

Ever since the establishment of the British Mandate in the 1920s, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the most holy site in the world to most Christians, was not required to pay for its water usage. This arrangement continued when the city was occupied by Jordan and after its liberation by Israel in 1967.

But eight years ago, the Jerusalem Municipality sought to gain better control of water usage in the city by establishing the Gihon Water Company. The move came as Israel was entering a period of severe drought. Under the new water regime, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was required to pay for its water, like everyone else.

In distinctly unchristian-like fashion, it refused to do so.

Gihon took legal action against the church and recently threatened to shut off the water all together. At that point, church officials turned to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to get the water company off their backs.

Israel's Ma'ariv newspaper reports that the compromise deal reached by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Gihon and the Israeli government will see the church pay its water bill for 2012, while the Jerusalem Municipality will cancel the debt from all previous years.

The church has promised to pay its water bills going forward.

It was also reported that Gihon and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are discussing the establishment of a joint fund to provide water to the poorer families belonging to the church.

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