The holy water at Christianity’s most sacred site can begin flowing unencumbered once again after the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and a local Jerusalem water company broke bread over a hard-fought agreement.
The settlement will see millions of shekels in unpaid bills wiped from the holy site’s account, Maariv reported on Sunday.
According to the report, the church will pay NIS 412,000 (almost $110,000) owed to Jerusalem’s Gihon Water Company, and the rest of the multi-million shekel debt will be canceled. From now on, the church will continue to pay for its water services on a regular basis.
Two years ago, the Gihon Water Company sued the church — believed by Christians to be the site of Jesus’s crucifixion, tomb and miraculous resurrection — for millions of shekels in back-bills that the church refused to pay.
The water company used legal means to freeze the church’s bank account in an effort to squeeze it into paying the bills. Without liquid funds, the church was unable to pay other bills and salaries.
As the water company threatened to cut off supplies to one of Christianity’s holiest sites, the desperate church appealed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to intervene. However, negotiations failed to produce a compromise until recently.
The sides have agreed that the church will pay its own bill backdated to the beginning of 2012. The bills from the years 2004-2011 will be covered by various government ministries and the Jerusalem Municipality, while the bills previous to that will be canceled, the report said.
Under the British Mandate, beginning in the early 1920s, the church was not required to pay a water bill. The custom continued throughout the years since then, including the period of Jordanian rule. After the 1967 war — when Israel gained control of East Jerusalem and subsequently annexed the area — the arrangement continued until the Gihon company sought payment.