On April 1, a Catholic monastery dedicated to Mary, Queen of Palestine, near Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem, was vandalized. Anti-Christian graffiti on the monastery walls said “Jesus is a monkey, Mary is a cow.” Tires were slashed on five vehicles.
Two days later, on April 3 in the Israeli town of Jish, a Maronite community near Safed in the north, the hate-filled message “Only non-Jews should be removed from our country” was painted on the walls. Forty vehicles had their tires slashed.
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The extent of the assault on both Christians and Muslims by radical Jewish groups has not been recognized outside of Israel. But the threat is real: Since 2009, according to the French Catholic newspaper La Croix, thirty Christian and Muslim places of worship in Israel and the Palestinian territories have been vandalized.
Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said,
“The identity of the vandals is not clear. Several investigations are underway, but we could not establish connections between them. Several people were questioned and then released. The extreme Israeli right is a track among others, we also know that in the past, tensions were also held between Christian communities in the old city of Jerusalem.“
Rosenfeld believes that the incidents are independent of one another, and that it would be inaccurate to describe the vandalism as evidence of “anti-Christian phenomenon.”
La Croix reports, though, an increase of anti-Christian vandalism in recent months.
- In August 2013, a Molotov cocktail was thrown against the Catholic monastery of Beit Jamal, where the retired Sisters of Bethlehem reside. Hebrew graffiti at the site read “Death to the gentiles” and “Revenge.”
- Targeted in September and October were a Baptist church, a Franciscan convent and, twice, the Orthodox Monastery of the Cross. The gate of the Latrun Trappist monastery, twelve miles from Jerusalem, was burned.
The vandals, who protest settlement of the Palestinian territories by any but Jews, leave a signature: The graffiti is tagged with the note “There is a price to pay.”
Jewish author Micha Regev claims that the vandals are schooled by “rabbis who hate Arabs, and profess it must be driven by a religious war to hasten the coming Messianic times and gain control of the Jewish people in Eretz Israel.”
Israeli President Shimon Peres, like all Israeli politicians, has denounced the vandalism as “an intolerable evil, and fundamentally contrary to the spirit of Judaism.” Peres and Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar signalled their willingness to fight against the vandals, insisting, “There is no place for violence in our society, much less when it is people or holy places.”