Who should pay for the water drunk by visitors to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem?
The church should, according to a new decision by the city’s water company.
From the Jerusalem Post:
“We are providing water to the pilgrims and tourist for free,” says doorkeeper Jawal Hussein. “It’s not fair. We should not have to pay.”
Slumped on a small stone bench at the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Hussein reflected on reports that the Jerusalem water company had decided to end a centuries-old tradition and is now demanding the church pay for its water.
Gihon, the public water company in Jerusalem, has also reportedly demanded the church pay its back bill dating to 1967, when Israel assumed control of east Jerusalem and the walled Old City from the Jordanians. According to AsiaNews.it, a Christian news site, the decision would break a tradition honored by both the British and Jordanian rulers who had controlled the site in the past century.
There is, however, a significant problem: who do they send the bill to? There is no single authority over the property, and the various church groups are hardly able to work things out between them.
There is also the question of fairness.
A Franciscan monk aiding a group of pilgrims from South Korea through the church paused to contemplate the water bill.
“I have heard about it but I don’t understand why the government wants to discriminate against us,” said the monk, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter. “Are the synagogues and the mosques paying?” “We are doing a favor to the pilgrims and tourists,” he added. “The government must be earning something from [their visit]. We are doing them a favor.”
“But if the synagogues and mosque have to pay, then I guess we have to pay as well,” the monk added.
The Gihon water company issued a statement saying that they have not, “as of this moment,” cut off the water supplies of any religious institution.
It added that it was charging a standard price of about $4 dollars per cubic meter for water from all religious institutions in the Old City, including mosques, synagogues and churches.
“It should be stressed that this is a uniform fee for all,” the statement said.
Is this true? Does the rabbinate pay for the water that comes from the fountains at the Western Wall?
It seems to me that the rules should be the same for the two places, as both are religious landmarks freely open to the public.