The Roman Amphitheater and the hippodrome in the ancient Israeli coastal city of Caesarea have been sold off, in secret, to a mysterious overseas holding company by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the Times of Israel reports.
According to the report, in total, over 172 acres in Caesarea were sold in the deal last month, including large chunks of what is designated as a historic national park.
The amphitheater is often the venue for Israeli and international performers.
The deal — for an undisclosed amount — was finalized last month between the Greek Orthodox Church and a company by the name of Saint Ventures Limited, which according to the Times of Israel is registered somewhere in the Caribbean.
News of the sale, reports Times of Israel, followed revelations earlier this month that the church also secretly sold off 123 acres of property in some of the wealthiest parts of the Israeli capital of Jerusalem.
The Caesarea sale shocked officials in the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Jewish National Fund, as well as those in the Israel Lands Authority and the Justice Ministry, according to the Channel 2 report Sunday.
The Justice Ministry called for a meeting in the coming days to discuss how to handle the issue of land sales by the church — the second biggest owner of land in Israel after the Israel Lands Authority.
The latest deals, one senior justice ministry official told the channel, require “the intervention of the relevant bodies.”
Another official, from the Parks Authority, which manages nature reserves and national parks, said the government agency “will act to ensure the protection of the ancient assets on the land.”
Caesarea was built some 2,000 years ago by King Herod and became the commercial capital of ancient Judaea. New discoveries are often made in the ancient city.