The Eastern Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem has sold around 500 dunams of land to Israel, leading Israeli financial newspaper Calcalist revealed on Tuesday.
According to the Israeli newspaper the land which the Orthodox Church sold is for Jewish investors and businessmen.
Quds Net News, a local Palestinian news agency, noted that this is the second time the church has sold Israel large amounts of land in recent years. About two years ago the Orthodox Church sold some 1,000 dunams to an Israeli enterprise, the agency said.
The secret deal came to light after the Church filed a complaint against the Israeli municipality in Jerusalem, seeking documents to prove that transferring ownership of the land to the municipality would mean they stopped paying taxes.
It also revealed that two years ago the Church sold 200 dunams in Al-Talibiyeh neighbourhood in Jerusalem to a group of unidentified investors, noting that Palestinian residents that owned the land feared that the investors would force them out of their homes after they completed the 30-year lease.
On why they kept the deal secret, the Church told the Calcalist: “There are certain sides inside and outside the country, some of them are enemies, have worked and are working to undermine this deal.”
The Church continued: “Therefore, for the interest of Jerusalem’s residents and for the interest of Israel, it is very necessary to carry out the deal and its details secretly.”
According to the Calcalist, the land was sold for NIS 38 million ($10.7 million), in addition to NIS 76million ($21.5million) paid by a company supervised by an Israeli lawyer in 2011.
Quds Net News said that the same Church sold the Franciscan Monastery, estimated to be 1,000 dunams, to an Israeli firm. The Church said that it sold the monastery because it needed the funds.