JERUSALEM (Jun. 30)
Israel has paid $2.1 million to 17 Christian institutions in Jerusalem for damage inflicted between 1948-1967 due to wars initiated by Jordan, Foreign Minister Abba Eban reported in the Knesset today. Eban also disclosed data that the Christian population declined by 20,000 through emigration during the 19 years of Jordanian occupation of East Jerusalem, a movement that has halted since Israeli forces captured the city in 1967. Eban provided a lengthy report on the holy places and the status of the Christian communities in Jerusalem in reply to a question from the floor which he was apparently anticipating. He recalled that on June 27, 1967, the Knesset passed a law for the protection of holy places and the Premier declared the shrines of all faiths open to all who wish to pray, without discrimination. In accordance with Israeli policy, Eban noted, the shrines of each faith are controlled by the religious authorities of that faith.
The Foreign Minister noted that the Jerusalem municipality has provided Christian churches and Institutions with financial and technical aid for the furtherance of spiritual, artistic and cultural undertakings and to encourage efficient maintenance. Among the institutions which have received such support are the Church of the Armenian Patriarchate, St. Pierre on Gallicantu; the Soeure de Sion, Ecce Homo Convent; the Franciscan Order; the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate; the Soeurs Blances; the Knights of Malta; the Evangelical Lutheran Church at Beit Jalla; Notre Dame de Sion and the Monastery of St. John at Ein Karem; the Catholic Church and Community Center at Beit Hanna and the American Institute for Holy Land Studies. Eban reported that the world’s first Roman Catholic Institute for Ecumenical studies is now rising on a bill near Jerusalem, a project inspired by Father Hesburgh, President of Notre Dame University at South Bend, Indiana, Prof. Charles Moeller, of the University of Louvaine, Belgium, will head the institution. Construction of a Greek Orthodox church near the Old City walls, which stood unfinished for many years under the Jordanian occupation, is now being completed. The sum of $175,000 has been allocated for the rehabilitation of the Rockefeller Museum. Christian churches are not subject to taxation and are exempt from customs duties and sales tax. The right of every religious community to maintain its own schools and to determine their curricula is also guaranteed and honored, Eban said. “Our policy is safeguarding the religious, cultural and social life of the city’s population and of those who enter its gates, including Christians. Moslems and other pilgrims.” he said.