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A Reprieve for Monks Facing Eviction in Israel

March 01, 2001|From Reuters

JERUSALEM — Mounting publicity helped a group of monks delay a Wednesday deadline for eviction from a monastery near Jerusalem, but the Franciscan owners said they were still determined to evict them.

After a long-running legal battle, the six Greek Melkite Catholic monks were told that bailiffs would force them to leave the Monastery of St. John in the Desert on Wednesday morning.

But they appeared to have won a temporary reprieve.

"The bailiff himself telephoned us. He said that he is not coming today," Father Elisha told journalists.

He said the presence of the media and local support had helped delay their eviction from the monastery overlooking the Soreq Valley, where they settled in 1980.

The cleric said that he was not sure when the bailiff might show up but that the monks would continue to fight the eviction.

The monastery is owned by the Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land, which oversees many of the Christian holy sites in the region. It won a court case to evict the monks and says it wants the site back to run it for pilgrims.

The monks originally had a 15-year lease, which later became an annual contract before it expired.

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