Jerusalem (Agenzia Fides) – The Israeli project to include the Mount of Olives area in the Jerusalem Walls Natural Park “will not be carried out without the participation of all interested parties, including, of course, the Churches in the area”. This was ensured by the Israeli Embassy to the Holy See, explaining the Israel Nature and Parks Authority’s (INPA) controversial plan to include the Christian Holy Sites on the Mount of Olives in a nature reserve that will also extend around the Valley of Hinnom.
The project, as reported by Fides (see Fides 21/2/2022), was to be presented to the planning committee of the city of Jerusalem on March 2nd, but the possibility of its imminent approval has alarmed the leaders of the Churches of the Holy Land, prompting some of them to send a letter to the Israeli Minister for the Environment to ask for the plan in question to be shelved.
In the letter, sent on Friday, February 18, signed by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, as well as Father Francesco Patton ofm, Custos of the Holy Land, and Nourhan Manougian, Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem called for the project to be stopped.
“Although the plan is officially presented by the INPA” – the letter reads – “the only obvious aim seems to be to nationalize one of Christianity’s holiest sites and transform its character”. Now the Israeli Embassy to the Holy See assures that the project can only be carried out with the involvement of the church in the region and at the same time emphasized the value of the initiative to protect biblical sites. “The valley of Hinnom, which surrounds the Old City of Jerusalem”, says the Embassy statement, “meets and merges with the Kidron Valley separating the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives. It is a landscape area of great universal importance that must be preserved and protected for future generations, an area where no development should take place. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) is considering including these areas in a national park to protect an area of great historical, natural and spiritual importance at the highest level”.
The Mount of Olives rises above the Old City of Jerusalem and on its slopes are numerous churches of various Christian denominations, where Christians from all over the world commemorate the passion and death of Christ.