On Monday, the Jerusalem District Court ruled in favor of real-estate companies working with Ateret Cohanim concerning three large areas in Jerusalem.
In three separate transactions in 2004, foreign real-estate corporations negotiated with the Greek Patriarchate which owned the properties in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Berisford Investments Limited purchased a 99-year lease for the four-story Petra Hotel located at Omar Ibn al-Hatab Square, between the Jaffa Gate and the Arab market. The $500,000 agreement included an option for an additional 99 years. In a separate transaction, Richards Marketing Corporation purchased the two-story Imperial Hotel adjacent to the Petra Hotel for $1.25 million. The purchase included the with the ground-floor stores. Gallow Global Limited acquired the rights to Beit Azmiya, in the Bab a-Khuta neighborhood of the Old City for $55,000.
Ateret Cohanim was instrumental in locating the properties and facilitating their acquisitions.
When the acquisitions first became public, the then-Greek Patriarch Irenaios denied knowledge of the sale, claiming it was invalid. He later retracted that statement, claiming instead that the unauthorized transactions had been made by the church’s director of finance Nicholas Papadimas who was bribed to accept the offers. As a result of the sales, Irenaios was forced to resign and was replaced by the current Patriarch Theophilos III. Theophilos rejected the sales and petitioned the court.
Judge Gila Kanfi-Steinitz, deputy head of the Jerusalem district court, ruled that Irenaios had the authority to enter into agreements on behalf of the Church. He also ruled that the director of the church’s finance department who signed the agreements acted as his proxy.
Judge Knafi-Steinitz rejected the claim any representatives of the church received bribes, noting that “the defendants did not provide sufficient proof on the required level to their claims of bribery or corruption that underlie the transactions.”
Ateret Cohanim (Crown of Priests) is a non-profit organization actively strengthening Jewish roots centered around educational institutes in and around the Old City and working toward creating greater Jewish life in neighborhoods that today are devoid of such life.