The Jerusalem District Court dismissed the Greek Patriarchate’s demand to overturn a ruling ordering the transfer of buildings it owns in the Old City of Jerusalem to the Israeli Ateret Cohanim organization.
After a 16-year-long battle, the court on Wednesday ruled again that the Greek Orthodox Church must honor a 99-year lease of three church properties it signed with the Ateret Cohanim organization in 2004.
District Judge Moshe Bar-Am dismissed the Patriarchate’s demand to cancel a previous ruling approving the sale of the properties at the Jaffa Gate to Ateret Cohanim.
This ruling is considered another victory for organizations working to boost the Jewish presence in the Old City of Jerusalem. (See: “Taking Back Jerusalem for God’s Sake”)
The ruling will allow Ateret Cohanim to resume its efforts to evacuate the Arab tenants from the properties, two large hotels situated at the Jaffa Gate.
The Patriarchate announced that it intends to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Ateret Cohanim, the Israeli organization that gained legal control of the buildings at the entrance to the Old City, has a yeshiva located in the Muslim Quarter and works to augment the Jewish presence in the Old City and in eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods. For this, it is branded by Israel’s antagonists as a Jewish “settler” project and part of an effort to “Judaize” Jerusalem, the city that the Bible identifies as the ancient capital of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah.
Ateret Cohanim purchased the buildings near the Jaffa Gate for a 99-year lease which is renewable for an additional 99 years, through three front companies.
The Church claimed that former Church finance director Nikolas Papadimos was unauthorized to make the sale and was bribed by the Israelis.
However, several Israeli courts ruled that the Church failed to provide sufficient evidence to support their allegations.
The Hotel Imperial and the nearby Petra Hotel currently occupy the buildings.