What is church land? What does this concept mean?
Living in Jerusalem is like living through history. You need to know what happened in the past in order to understand what’s going on and have the ability to look a bit into the future.
During the late 18th century different sects of Christians began acquiring land in Israel, and specifically Jerusalem. Churches started sending priests and clergy to Israel to build their own communities and settle on this purchased land.
Meanwhile, the Jewish community, which was populated until then in the Old City, began to grow and move beyond the walls of the Old City. They settled and created communities on plots of land that was purchased by the Greek Orthodox Church, the Russian religious delegation, various groups of Catholics, and other Christian denominations. Some of the churches at some point created long-term leases with the Israel Lands Administration or private entrepreneurs.
This topic of Church land came up around 5 years ago, because the long-term leases that were created were coming to an end, and the banks would not give out mortgages to those purchasing properties on these lands. It became a heated debate, and it still is. One such lease by the Greek Orthodox Church, 500 dunam, was bought by Nayot Komemiyut Investments, an Israeli investor, Noam Ben David.
So what does this mean for those who want to buy or sell Church Land?
As we know from the past years (at least 5) there has been a decrease in value of the church-land properties. This will continue to occur as we get closer to the end of the lease (years 2049-2051). We also see an increase in price of privately owned properties in the same areas, due to the fact that there’s more of a demand for these properties instead, and the hesitancy in people to consider buying church-land due to the factor above.
I’m here to tell you that it’s a missed opportunity. I believe there will be a solution in the long run to the church-land issue, and this is the land to buy now while the prices are low.
Specifically, regarding Ben-David owned land, there is a solution now! There is a way to gain full ownership of a KKL-leased property and register it (in Tabu) under the buyer’s name. This can be done by paying the Ben-David company around 27% of the value of the property if it were to be privately owned.
So why should someone buy the ownership now? As we get closer to the end of the lease, the percentage to buy ownership will only go up.
So should you buy it now or wait for a possible government solution? There’s no way to know for sure and only time will tell.