Topic: Russia in Global Affairs
Israel has agreed in principle to return historical Russian church assets in Jerusalem that it bought from Soviet authorities in a mock deal 40 years ago, Russia's foreign minister said Thursday.
"Israel has tentatively given its consent to have the church of St. Sergius and the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission re-registered as Russian property, and particulars are now being discussed," Sergei Lavrov said.
The two buildings are part of Jerusalem's so-called Russian Compound, built in the final decades of Tsarist rule and partly sold to Israel by the Nikita Khrushchev government in 1964. Israel paid for the assets with a batch of citrus fruit in what went down in history as the "orange deal."
The premises of St. Sergius' church are currently occupied by Israel's Ministry of Agriculture and government agencies for environmental protection, whereas the Ecclesiastical Mission houses the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court.
Lavrov said that the matter had been under negotiation for some three years now and that Israel is finally showing the political will to hand the property back.
The minister spoke to reporters after a congress of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, which was established by Emperor Alexander III in 1882 to facilitate Orthodox Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land and to promote Palestinian studies and humanitarian cooperation with the peoples of the biblical region.
The society's newly elected chair, Auditing Chamber President Sergei Stepashin, said he would concentrate his efforts on recovering Russian property in the Holy Land while also working to promote Russian culture and the language in Palestinian-administered territories.
"We could make substantial progress this year toward solving the issue [of property return]," Stepashin said.
The ministerial committee for Jerusalem decided to allocate the site to Bezalel a year ago. The Jerusalem municipality welcomes and supports the project. The move to a new campus is part of plans to expand Bezalel, increase its student body and add new departments.
Participants in the competition will be required to design one or more buildings intended to promote a creative atmosphere and maximize interaction between Bezalel’s departments. The campus will include extensive public spaces by utilizing an open design to encourage movement and 24-hour activity.
The first stage of the competition will be open, from which three to five proposals will be selected for the second stage. Four architect firms will be invited in advance: Rosenfeld Arens Architects Ltd., Ada Karmi-Melamede Architects, London firm Foreign Office Architects, a fourth firm that has not yet been chosen.
The winners of the first stage are due to be announced in January 2007, and the second stage in June. For further details: Bezalel Competition.Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on September 10, 2006
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2006
A landmark Jerusalem absorption center which served as one of the pillars of North American immigration since the establishment of the State of Israel is losing its main dormitory building after the Vatican terminated its half-century-old lease, the Jewish Agency said Wednesday.
The three-story building, which served as the chief dormitory and club room at Jerusalem's prominent Ulpan Etzion in the city's upscale Baka neighborhood, was recently sold by the Carmelite Church to a private developer, a Jewish Agency spokesman, Michael Jankelowitz, said.
The Carmelite Church, which is connected to the Vatican, had previously leased the lucrative property out to the Jewish Agency for the last half century, he added.
The absorption center, which was established in 1949 as Israel's first ulpan, will likely have to vacate the building in question within the next three years.
Jewish Agency officials, who are battling concomitant economic difficulties, are considering where to house students when they will have to vacate the building. But the officials are not inclined to leave the compound altogether.
"The future of Ulpan Etzion is not at stake here," Jankelowitz said.
Some 165 students from 20 countries around the world are currently studying at the ulpan, of whom 103 live there.
Some of the students studying at what is considered the Jewish Agency's flagship ulpan are already housed at an alternative site in southern Jerusalem known as Beit Canada, while others live in rented apartments.
In the past, students have complained about the condition of the rooms in the old building, as well as heating problems over the winter. The rest of the buildings at the site belong to the Jewish Agency.
The quasi-governmental organization which promotes Jewish immigration to Israel has been going through a period of economic turmoil and change.
The economic decision by the Church to terminate the group's lease on the building comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin is said to be pushing ahead with claims on a couple of buildings in the city's historic Russian Compound which are owned by the Russian Orthodox Church, including the landmark city building housing the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court.
Israel is concerned over the precedent such claims may have on other Church properties in the city, including the prime minister's official residence.