Church battles it out in unholy water fight over $2.5m unpaid bill
One of Christianity's holiest sites, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, is facing financial crisis after they failed to pay up on a $2.5 million water bill.
The dispute over the unpaid invoice turned nasty two weeks ago when Israeli water company Hagihon froze the church's bank account.
The Greek Orthodox Church, based in Jerusalem, claims that, unlike other historic churches in the region, the Holy Sepulchre has always been exempt from water fees. But Haigihon clearly doesn’t agree and has been pressing the site to settle the debt since the late 1990s when they took over as their suppliers.
Following an epic stalemate lasting almost two decades, Hagihon has finally decided to take action against the church. The Holy Sepulchre has now been forced to dig deep for a whacking water bill or to close their doors instead.
With its bank account frozen, the Church is left in an impossible situation: unable to support its 500 priests and monks, 2,000 teachers, or the running costs of the 30 Christian schools that rely on its funding across the Palestinian territories and Jordan.
Israeli paper Maariv reported that since the bank account has been suspended, the church has seen standing orders rejected and checks bouncing, with anything relying on electricity in shutdown. One Patriarchate told the paper: "The church is completely paralyzed. We can't pay for toilet paper. Nothing. Hagihon has declared war on us."
Greek Orthodox priest Isidoros Fakitsas announced on Friday that the church is considering closing for a day in protest. However, such measures would need the support of the Catholic and Armenian churches, who are co-custodians.
News of a potential closure is sure to come as a devastating blow to Christians across the world, who believe the Holy Sepulchre is the site of Jesus Christ's crucifixion. With one million pilgrims visiting the church every year, the Israeli Tourism Ministry is none too happy either.
The Ministry is now mediating between the two sides to help find a resolution. But with both the church and the water company refusing to back down, this dispute looks like it will need divine intervention before a resolution is found.
What do you think of this story - should the water company drop the bill, or should the church find a way to pay up? Leave us your comments below!