The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land has condemned three major acts of vandalism and profanation against Christian sites in Galilee.
Between 70 and 80 teenagers, “half of them … dressed as orthodox Jews,” came to Dormition Abbey on Sunday. According to reports, they threw stones at one cross, demolished another altar cross, scratched the Star of David on some benches, threw stones and spat at a woman who was a guest of the abbey.
“The material damage was not so great, but what shocked us is that their focus of hate was against the symbol of the cross, that they destroyed facilities for pilgrims and that they terrified innocent guests and pilgrims visiting the holy places,” according to the Dormition abbey website.
“A guest (a woman), who was staying in the guest room close to the place, heard the noise. When she stood up, they throw stones at her, spit on her and shouted obscenities. Then they left quickly,” the abbey said.
In a separate incident, a rabbi sent a letter to the Patriarchal Vicariate in Nazareth and promised “serious reprisals” if Christians did not leave the State of Israel, according to the bishops. The rabbi was subsequently arrested.
In another incident, Jewish neighbors disrupted a baptism taking place in a Greek Orthodox church in Al-Bassa “by driving a vehicle toward the buildings and honking loudly,” according to a report in the Israeli daily Haaretz. They also cursed those present for being Christians.
“Together with the Assembly of Ordinaries, Christians of Galilee feel deeply worried by such acts, and ask the Civil and Police authorities to forcefully react by arresting the suspected persons, in order to restore mutual religious respect, the assembly said in a statement.
Meanwhile, religious leaders in the Holy Land have condemned acts of desecration of graves and holy sites in Galilee.
A swastika and the writing “price tag will be paid” were spray-painted on the tombstone of Rabbi Halafta Tuesday. On Friday, the Tomb of Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam near Haifa was desecrated and spray-painted with the words “price tag” and the Star of David.
The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land (CRIHL) said it “strongly condemns these acts of vandalism.
“With this increase and repeated acts of vandalism against holy sites in recent days, the CRIHL urges the Israeli authorities to allocate the resources necessary to both prevent such attacks and apprehend the perpetrators.”
The CRIHL also called upon decision-makers “to combat the source of this behavior and whoever stands behind influencing these youth. We consider any attack on the sites of one religion to be, in effect, an attack on all religions and a desecration of the Divine Name.”
The statement was issued in the name of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the Heads of the Local Churches of the Holy Land, the Ministry of Waqf and Religious Affairs of the Palestinian Authority.
The ‘price tag’ label was coined by fundamentalist Israeli settler youths who wish to exact a price from local Palestinians, the Israeli security forces or any group, for any action taken against their settlement enterprise.
The suspected youths have also vandalised numerous Christian holy sites in the Holy Land in recent years, but few of the perpetrators have been caught and brought to justice.