02/27/2012, 00.00
ISRAEL
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Holy Land Custodian writes to Shimon Peres calling for an end to church vandalism

by Joshua Lapide
Fr Pizzaballa says a red line was crossed when violent and offensive words appeared on the walls of a Baptist church, a Greek-Orthodox monastery and the Christian cemetery on Mount Zion. The graffiti read: "Death to Christianity," We will crucify you", "Mary is a whore". Other offensive words had appeared previously on the walls of the Cenacle.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - In a letter to Israeli President Shimon Peres, Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa has called for a end to acts of vandalism against churches and private property that "hurt the feelings of Christians in Israel", not to mention "hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visiting Jerusalem and the holy land".

Fr Pizzaballa wrote the letter after a series of Hebrew-language graffiti appeared on the walls of the Narkis Street Baptist Church, on a Christian cemetery on Mount Zion and on the Greek Orthodox monastery in the Valley of the Cross. The graffiti included "Jesus is dead," "Death to Christianity," "We will crucify you" and "Mary is a whore". The tyres of three cars parked nearby were also slashed.

This kind of vandalism has been dubbed "Price tag", a euphemism for hate crimes by Israeli extremists, perhaps settlers, against mosques, Arab places of gathering and Israeli pacifists.

For Israeli police, the recent spate of attacks against Christian targets is the work of isolated individuals, not of extremist nationalists and settlers.

Still, they express racism and hatred. A few years ago, Hebrew graffiti and acts of scorn against Christians appeared on the walls of the Cenacle. Some priests have also complained that they were spat upon and verbally attacked by young Yeshiva students.

"These actions," Pizzaballa wrote, "which as far as I know haven't led to any arrests, are but one painful example in a series of similar actions being carried out recently without hardly any hindrance. As you know, it is not my practice to write letters such as this. The various Christian communities live quietly and peacefully in Israel, with respect, appreciation and good relations with Jews and Moslems."

"Unfortunately, throughout the years we have learned to ignore provocations and continue our daily life. Still, it seems that this time red lines have been crossed and we cannot remain silent. These shocking slogans sprayed on Christian sites of prayer, especially in Jerusalem, hurt the feelings of all the Christians in Israel, regardless of their creed, as well as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visiting Jerusalem and the holy land, and millions more, worldwide.

"I would be grateful," he continued, "if you would use all your power and influence with the authorities so that this dangerous pattern of action will be eradicated and these actions stopped, before they become a habitual part of Christian life in Israel."

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