Greek Patriarchate Sues to Close Jerusalem Museum on Land It Claims to Own

Nir Hasson
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The Ein Yael Archaeological Site in Jerusalem, August 2, 2019
The Ein Yael Archaeological Site in Jerusalem, August 2, 2019Credit: Oren Ben Hakoon
Nir Hasson

The Greek Patriarchate of Jerusalem, considered the biggest private land owner in Israel, has filed a petition to close the Ein Yael Museum in Jerusalem, claiming to be the owner of the museum’s property.

The Patriarchate, who has been tied in recent years to several controversial major real estate deals, conceded in its lawsuit filed with the Jerusalem District Court that it had signed documents with plans for developing the museum two years ago, but claims that it did not agree to it operating on its property.

The museum was opened in the early 1990s at the Ein Yael archaeological site in the south of the city. Thousands of schoolchildren visit the museum annually for educational activities about archaeology and ancient framing. In the lawsuit, filed against the association managing the museum and the Jerusalem Foundation, which founded the association, the Patriarchate claimed “it was shocked to discover that the defendant is making use of the land and deriving profit at the expense of the plaintiff and operating a museum there without its consent or knowledge."

The petition, first reported by local newspaper Kol Ha’ir, also states, “The deeds of the defendant are 10 times as bad considering the land is registered legally in the name of the plaintiff.” Attorney Calanit Akrish-Salton filed the petition on behalf of the Patriarchate. 

The Jerusalem Foundation commented that it is “studying the lawsuit.”

Deals made by the Patriarchate in recent years include one in which huge tracts of land in west Jerusalem were sold to private developers. Around 1,000 families living in these neighborhoods discovered that they had become beholden to the developers, and they fear they will be forced out once their leasing contracts expire in another 30 years or so.

There has been much criticism within the Christian Orthodox community in Israel regarding the deals that they claim were made at ridiculous prices. In parallel, the Patriarchate has been waging a legal battle for many years against the Ateret Cohanim association in an effort to rescind the sales of two large properties next to Jaffa Gate, which the previous patriarch had carried out.

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