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December 6, 2012 12:34 pm

Jerusalem Water Dispute Serves as Opportunity for Jewish-Christian Cooperation

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The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Photo: Berthold Werner.

Known as one of the holiest sites in Christendom, Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre has seen its share of disputes since it was erected in the 4th century on the site traditionally held to be where Jesus was crucified and buried. However, today a new dispute has arisen—who should pay the water bill?

In November, a dispute between a private water company and the church almost led to its closure, reports.

For over a century, the Jerusalem municipality had waived the charge of water to the church. However, in 2003 the Israeli water company was privatized and began charging for the water.  Over the nine years of non-payment the bill had grown to nearly NIS 9 million.

“We are willing, in the future, to pay the bills of water. But the [debts before the] 9 million [are] not our problem,” said Father Fakitsas Isidoros, superior of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.

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The dispute eventually led the water company to freeze the patriarchate’s local bank account, complicating the church’s efforts to pay other bills, including electricity.

Eventually the dispute was resolved when Israeli President Shimon Peres stepped in and waived the church’s debt.

Hana Bendcowsky, program director at the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations, said that the incident serves as an opportunity for Jews to foster relations with the Christian community in Jerusalem.

“We used to be minorities among Christians, and suddenly we are the majority, and we have the responsibility over Christian minorities,” she said.

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