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What’s happening?

The Story

The Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem has leased to developers a site of outstanding natural beauty and deep historic, religious and cultural importance to the three monotheistic faiths.

With unobstructed views of both the Old City and the new, the site – at the summit of Abu Tor – is believed to be the Hill of Evil Counsel. It has been protected under Christianity for more than 1,000 years.

The deal has outraged local residents and is causing controversy within the Greek Orthodox Church and among Palestinian Orthodox Christians.

The roughly 2.5-acre compound, enclosed by high stone walls, has been mentioned and described in numerous accounts and legends for 2000 years.  It looks out over – and can be seen from –  Montefiore’s windmill in Yemin Moshe, the Dormition Church on Mt Zion, the Al Aqsa and Golden Dome mosques on the Temple Mount, the Russian Orthodox Church in Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives and Mount Scopus.

The site contains a wealth of archaeological remains going back to Canaanite times and possibly earlier,  trees that are almost a century old, and a rich flora which supports a wide variety of wild life.

    The Planned Construction

    The planned construction will:

    • Destroy the last remaining undeveloped site in the area, where – uniquely – a story mentioned in the Gospels [the decision to hand Jesus over to the Romans] intersects with known historic Jewish events and characters.
    • Rob future generations of an integral part of the sacred landscape of Jerusalem, which gives meaning to the archaeology and to the Canaanite, Jewish, Christian and Islamic history associated with the site.
    • Compromise the historic geography of mountain ridges and sacred sites seen from multiple points throughout Jerusalem.
    • Deprive the residents of the neighborhood and the city of a uniquely beautiful and peaceful place affording panoramic views of Jerusalem and the Mountains of Moab to the east.
      The Developers

      The Greek Orthodox Church has sold a 110-year lease for the walled compound to “Abu Tor Properties Ltd” for the purpose of construction. The directors of Abu Tor Properties are  Michael Steinhardt – a well-known American financier and philanthropist; David Sofer, a London-based Israeli investor and businessmen; and Jonathan Shiff, managing partner at Israeli law firm Reshef and Shiff, which is representing the two investors.  Reshef has confirmed that the investors ordered a private, preliminary survey of the site by the Israel Antiquities Authority and that they are looking into options for construction. Planning permission has not yet been requested.

      An earlier attempt by a different group of investor to build a hotel/holiday apartment complex on the site in the 1980s failed, and the church was forced to pay out several million dollars in compensation when the deal fell through. This plan envisaged an approach road from Asael Street.

      It is believed that Abu Tor Properties Ltd is trying to revive the idea of a hotel/holiday apartment complex.