Photo Credit: GPO
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touring the Crusader gate located at the Old City of Caesarea alongside 'The Royal Tour' producer and host, American journalist Peter Greenberg (left).

According to a report by Channel 2 News journalist Chaim Rivlin, a tract of land owned by the Greek Orthodox Church in Caesarea has been sold.

The buyer is a holding company from the Carribean, “Saint Ventures Limited.”

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This is the second such sale by the church in as many months.

Last month the church sold land that it owned in central Jerusalem. But this time the property is also significant due to its archaeological and historic background.

Moreover, it’s not clear who really has purchased the property. The Carribean is also known for being a tax haven.

Both deals were made without notifying the state or JNF, which held a 99-year lease from the church, with an option to extend.

Sources in the Greek Orthodox Church, one of the largest land owners in Israel, said both deals were made in order to build up cash to repurchase properties allegedly sold “illegally” by former Patriarch Irineos, including a lot near the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem, according to Times of Israel.

The area in the Caesarea transaction, more than 172 acres of land, includes the enormous Caesarea National Park and Amphitheater, which is designated as a historic national park. The site is a major tourist attraction and a popular destination for concert-goers. It has recently also become the focus of a NIS 100 million national conservation project.

Caesarea is an ancient port city built 2,000 years ago by King Herod. It became the commercial hub of then-Judea, with its history from that time to this having left its mark in archaeological artifacts that are still being discovered to this day beneath the waves of the Mediterranean and on dry land.

The announcement was received with shock by state officials at the Israel Lands Authority, as well as those in the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and the Israel National Parks Authority.

This is another of many such transactions now taking place across the country – in particular, the sale of entire streets in Jerusalem, according to the report – and at last, it is beginning to sink in that this phenomenon is taking place on a national scale.

The Justice Ministry has called a meeting to discuss the matter, with a ministry official telling Channel 2 that the Caesarea transaction “calls for intervention by relevant bodies.”

Last month the Greek Orthodox Church sold its rights to 125 acres in the upscale central Jerusalem neighborhood of Talbieh to an anonymous group of investors.

For decades, that land was leased to the Jewish National Fund, but those leases were about to expire – and homeowners in the area only now have learned that the land on which their homes were built has been sold to private investors, according to Globes, making it a question as to what will happen with their investment, and their own property.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.