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After court loss, church vows fight over Old City hotels will go on

Greek Orthodox Church publishes ad saying deal to lease hotels near Jaffa Gate to settler group was obtained fraudulently

The Imperial Hotel at the Jaffa Gate, the lease to which was sold to the right-wing Ateret Cohanim organization and is the subject of an appeal by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch.  (Shmuel Bar-Am)
The Imperial Hotel at the Jaffa Gate, the lease to which was sold to the right-wing Ateret Cohanim organization and is the subject of an appeal by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

The Greek Orthodox Church on Tuesday denounced an Israeli court decision that upheld the rights of a Jewish settler organization to lease prime church property in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The church claims the rights were procured in a fraudulent deal.

In an advertisement published in Arabic in the the Al Quds newspaper, the Greek Patriarchate said the deal was conducted illegally under the watch of the previous patriarch — who was deposed as a result.

The patriarchate said in the advertisement that it would “exert all the efforts and legal and financial means to cancel this deal.”

The court’s decision — a declaratory judgment — affirmed the rights of three overseas holding companies for the Ateret Cohanim settler organization to lease two hotels and another property for 99 years, with the option to extend for another 99.

Ateret Cohanim works to acquire property to establish a Jewish presence throughout Jerusalem’s Old City and in Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.

It is anathema to Palestinians, who hope that these areas will one day be part of their future state.

The two hotels — the New Imperial and the Petra — are located prominently between the Jaffa Gate and the start of the Arab souk.

Once regal properties, they today primarily serve tour groups and backpackers.

Petra Hotel in Jerusalem (DiggerDina Wikipedia)
Petra Hotel in Jerusalem (DiggerDina Wikipedia)

The Jerusalem District Court ruled Monday that the contracts to lease the two hotels and an additional property had been signed by those authorized by the patriarchate to do so and that the investors had paid the full amount for the leases

The church was ordered to pay NIS 30,000 ($8,420) to the Ateret Cohanim group in legal costs.

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