FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, D.C. - February 24, 2022
Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) Stands with Church Leaders Opposing Plan to Designate Parts of the Mt. of Olives as a National Park
On February 18, 2022, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, Catholic Church Custos of the Holy Land, Francesco Patton, and Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, Nourhan Manougian, wrote to Her Excellency Ms. Tamar Zandberg, Minister for the Protection of the Environment, declaring opposition to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority’s (INPA) plan no. 101-0674788, proposing the designation of “large spaces of the Mt. of Olives, in the Holy City of Jerusalem, as National Park,” including parts of the Kidron and Ben Hinnom Valleys. Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) joins these church leaders in calling for the withdrawal of this plan.
Though the INPA claims the expansion will not harm church properties, this designation would threaten Church authority for preserving these sacred pilgrimage sites as well as the Christian character of Jerusalem. CMEP supports the sustainability of Christianity in the Middle East, and therefore the right of churches to maintain land associated with Christian holy sites. This plan fits with a trend of attacks, both physical and legal, against Christians in Jerusalem that seem to oppose the city’s partially Christian character, documented in this previous statement by the heads of Churches.
Despite hearing the plan has been canceled, CMEP is continuing to monitor the situation closely. An INPA spokesperson said that the plan will not proceed “without coordination and communication with all relevant officials, including the churches” and intends to preserve the land without constructing it.
CMEP calls on the Biden Administration to engage directly with the Government of Israel to ensure the INPA plan is permanently withdrawn and that religious freedom is protected for all in the Holy Land.
Please see below for the text of the heads of Churches’ original letter to Tamar Zandberg:
Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is a coalition of 30 national church communions and organizations, including Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Evangelical traditions that works to encourage US policies that actively promote a comprehensive resolution to conflicts in the Middle East with a focus on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. CMEP works to mobilize US Christians to embrace a holistic perspective and to be advocates of equality, human rights, security, and justice for Israelis, Palestinians, and all people of the Middle East.