The Greek Orthodox Church has sold the land upon which the historic Jaffa Clock Tower stands, Israeli media revealed on Tuesday. The church is Israel’s second largest landowner.
According to the economics newspaper Calcalist, affiliated to the daily Yedioth Ahronoth, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate sold the land in 2013 to Bona Trading, a company registered in the Caribbean state of Saint Vincent, for 5.2 million new Israeli shekels (then worth around $1.5m).
The Jaffa Clock Tower was one of seven built in 1903 by the Ottomans at the entrance to Jaffa’s Old City. Several were destroyed and stolen during the British Mandate period and after the start of the Israeli occupation. However, this one survived and went through several renovations.
Recent reports have revealed that the patriarchate was involved in selling an area of 125 acres of Palestinian land to Jewish investors. According to Calcalist, the deal for the Clock Tower started in 1998, when the Orthodox Church sold a 99-year lease to a private investor named Clock Quarter for $1.5m, in addition to giving the church 35 per cent of the building to be built on the land.
In 2003, the lease was sold to Caesarea Investments in 2008 for NIS 30 million (then worth around $9 million). However, in 2013, the church sold the land to the Caribbean-registered company. This pushed Caesarea Investment to claim in court in December last year that the deal with Bona Trading should be cancelled as it should have had the right to buy the land because of the existing lease that it held.
The Israeli news website said that several similar “complex” land deals have been revealed recently, including a deal regarding historic Caesarea antiquities.