“Thus Rachel died. She was buried on the road to Efrat—now Beit Lechem.” Genesis 35:19 (The Israel Bible™)
Tazpit Press published a report on Sunday stating that eleven institutions associated with the Greek-Orthodox Church signed a statement protesting the ongoing attempt by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to take control of the plaza in front of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
The Church of the Nativity is located in Bethlehem and holds a prominent religious significance to Christians of various denominations as the purported birthplace of Jesus. The original basilica was likely built around 330 CE but was destroyed around 529 CE. The current structure is believed to have been built soon after. It covers approximately 12,000 square meters, comprising three different monasteries: Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, and Roman Catholic.
According to the Tazpit report, Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, claimed the Palestinians are harming the Christian presence in Bethlehem, forfeiting their rights, harming Church assets and violating their right to light Christmas trees on the plaza.
Ironically, last year, the Palestinians protested against the Greek Orthodox Church at the Christmas celebration in Bethlehem. The Palestinians were angered over the church selling land to Jews in Jerusalem. According to a source cited by the Tazpit report, the PA actions are intended to “counteract” those sales.
The same source claimed, “that Christmas ceremonies are gradually turning from a religious Christian event to a national event sponsored by the PA, even though in recent years it has acted to deprive Christians of their properties.”
The report also claimed that Palestinian authorities in the nearby village of al-Azzariya are in the process of taking over the Tomb of Lazarus in order to operate the Christian holy site as a for-profit tourist site. Tazpit reported that “thugs” are demanding entry fees.