Is Jerusalem About to Start Taxing Churches?

Jerusalem Municipality to start collecting property taxes from traditional churches that own much of the city

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The headlines look bad. While there's no mention of synagogues and mosques, it's being reported that the Jerusalem Municipality has decided to start taxing local churches.

The heads of major churches (mostly Catholic and Eastern Orthodox) have boycotted an upcoming event hosted by Mayor Nir Barkat in protest.

A few days earlier, these Church leaders issued a statement reading:

"Civil authorities have always respected the great contribution of the Christian churches, which invest billions in building hospitals and homes, many for the elderly and disadvantaged, in the Holy Land."

But, as with most stories of a controversial nature, some key elements are being left out of many reports.

First, this is a property tax, known in Hebrew as arnona, not a tax on Church income.

The reason it's a bigger deal for these traditional churches is because they own a large percentage of the land in the city of Jerusalem.

Furthermore, and this point is critical, the Jerusalem Municipality has decided only to collect arnona from those Church-owned properties that house businesses, such as guest houses. No house of worship is going to be taxed.

Still, given just how much of the land in Jerusalem these churches own, collecting arnona on the businesses is estimated to bring in hundreds of millions of shekels per year.

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