The Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem has filed a lawsuit demanding the closure of a living museum that has been operating on the outskirts of the capital since the early 1990s.
The lawsuit, filed early last week at the Jerusalem District Court, claims the Ein Yael outdoor museum in the city’s south has been illegally operating on premises owned by the Patriarchate.
It adds to a growing list of land disputes the Church, the largest private landowner in Israel, has had in Jerusalem in recent years.
The suit asks the court to order the closure and evacuation of the museum, where thousands of children come every year to attend workshops and summer camps and learn about ancient archaeology and agriculture. The site, located in a forest, is also a venue for wedding and other celebrations.
The lawsuit was first reported last week by the Kol Hair local newspaper. It targets the museum and the Jerusalem Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes the development of Jerusalem.
האם הקרן לירושלים תאלץ לפנות את מוזיאון עין יעל? בתביעה שהוגשה השבוע לבית המשפט המחוזי טוענת הפטריארכיה היוונית לבעלות על השטח שעליו פועל המוזיאון – ואדי נחל רפאים הסמוך לגן החיות התנ"כי – ועל כן היא מבקשת מבית המשפט להורות על פינוי המתחם ודורשת דמי שימוש בסך 7,560 מיליון ש"ח pic.twitter.com/HKN2QI16sW
— שלומי הלר (@Heller_shlomi) May 4, 2020
“According to information obtained by the plaintiff, since 1990 or so the defendants trespassed on the plaintiff’s property unlawfully and without the consent or knowledge of the plaintiff,” the lawsuit says.
It says the Patriarchate had been “shocked” in 2015 to discover the outdoor museum was operating on its property. It wasn’t clear why it hadn’t realized that fact earlier.
The Patriarchate acknowledges that it signed a plan to develop the land at Ein Yael some two years ago, but claims it hadn’t given the museum permission to operate.
The Jerusalem Foundation told the Haaretz new site on Sunday that it was studying the lawsuit.
In March, the Jerusalem District Court ruled against the Greek Orthodox Church in a different land dispute in the city, ordering the municipality to release land sold by the Church several years ago to Nayot Komemiyut Investments, a group of private investors who had purchased it in the Talbieh, Rehavia and Nayot neighborhoods of the capital.
The most prolonged legal battle has been waged over two hotels at the entrance to the Old City, which the Church leased in 2005 to a right-wing Jewish group in a deal it claims was problematic.