09/05/2012, 00.00
ISRAEL

Anti-Christian violence in Israel. Catholic leaders: Forces of hate

The main door of the Trappist monastery of Latrun burned. Graffiti offensive of the Christian faith. Perhaps revenge for the evacuation of an illegal Israeli settlement. Catholic patriarchs and bishops denounce: Christians used as scapegoats. Israeli society marked by teaching "of contempt." Netanyahu promises justice.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - "Christians are still being targeted. Why?" This is the question of all the Catholic patriarchs and authorities in the Holy Land, along with the Nuncio to Jordan, Giorgio Lingua, after yet another attack of vandalism on a place of Christian worship and writings offensive to their faith.

Yesterday, the Trappist monastery of Latrun was attacked, the main gate was burned and the façade covered in orange graffiti. One reads in Hebrew: "Jesus is a monkey," while others refer to "Ramat Migron" and "Maoz Esther," two illegal Jewish settlements. Last week, the Israeli police evacuated outposts of Migron because it was built on private Palestinian land.

Police have opened an investigation but so far there are leads. The hypothesis points to Israeli extremist settlers venting their anger against the monastery, which is located near the border of the occupied territories, 15 km west of Jerusalem. A statement of the settlers of Migron denies any responsibility in the act of vandalism.

In the late afternoon yesterday the Catholic leaders of the Holy Land published a message denouncing "their horror" at the presence of "forces of hatred in Israeli society."

The message highlights the great work of dialogue with the Jewish world brought forward by the monks of Latrun and the fact that the monastery is visited by hundreds of Israeli Jews every week, who are all welcomed "with love and warmth by the monks."

The leaders do note, however, that "what happened in Latrun is just the latest episode in a long series of attacks against Christians and their places of worship."

In all these years there have been acts of vandalism and contempt for the church near the Upper Room (see 16/12/2009 More Jewish anti-Christian graffiti at the Cenacle and 12/12/2009 "Death to Christians": Hebrew graffiti next to Upper Room in Jerusalem), Orthodox and Protestant churches to (see: 27/02/2012 Holy Land Custos writes to Shimon Peres calling for an end to church vandalism).

Usually these acts are called "price tag" attack, as the "price" for being enemies of the Jewish settlements, or Israel. The extremists who perform them are targeting Palestinian homes, olive groves, mosques, and now also Israeli police and Christian sites.

But the bishops and the Catholic Patriarchs wonder: What is going on in Israeli society today that permits Christians to be scapegoated and targeted by these acts of violence?" ..."What kind of 'teaching of contempt' for Christians is being communicated in their schools and in their homes? And why are the culprits not found and brought to justice.

They conclude: "It is time for the authorities to put an end to this senseless violence and ensure a" teaching of respect "in schools for all those who call this land home."

The reference to '"teaching of contempt" is related to the fact that sometimes, some of these acts of vandalism are committed by Orthodox Jewish yeshiva students, who also express their disgust towards Christians with slogans, throwing stones and spitting.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the violence against the Latrun monastery as "a criminal act" saying that "those responsible will be severely punished."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak asked the Shin Bet, domestic intelligence, to step up its vigilance in this "battle against Jewish terrorism."

 

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