The churches of Jerusalem are concerned about the escalation of Israeli attacks
Churches in occupied East Jerusalem fear an escalation of Israeli extremist attacks on Christian property in the city.
Current and former church officials told Anadolu Agency (AA) that repeated attacks on Christian property ended with the perpetrators not being punished.
On Sunday, Israeli extremists destroyed 30 graves with crosses in a Christian cemetery belonging to the Evangelical Episcopal Church in East Jerusalem.
And the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, in a tweet, on Wednesday, that “the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns the act of deliberate vandalism at the Mount Zion Protestant cemetery in Jerusalem.”
History of assaults
On December 27, 2022, dozens of settlers stormed a 5,000-square-meter (53,820 sq ft) plot of land in Silwan, south of Jerusalem’s Old City, protected by Israeli police.
The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate denounced the settlers’ incursion, describing it as a “clear encroachment” on its property in Jerusalem.
“This extremist group has no right or judicial support in its favor to allow it to enter or occupy the territory,” it said in a statement.
The Patriarchate indicated that a settlement association tried two years ago to seize the Imperial and Little Petra hotels located in Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Square in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Conviction awaiting punishment
The former bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Holy Land, Munib Younan, said: “The attack on the cemetery, which tells the history of Lutherans since the nineteenth century, is evidence of the attackers’ hatred.”
During his interview with a. a. , Younan said that the attack on the cemetery was “unacceptable and should not only be condemned, but also the perpetrators should be punished”.
He stressed that the aggressors “targeted the Hebron Gate by seizing the Imperial and Petra Hotels, which will lead to control of the local and international Christian pilgrimage to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City.”
The recent attacks were not limited to the property of the Lutheran Church, but also the property of other Christian denominations, including those owned by the Greek Orthodox Church.
The spokesman for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Father Issa Musleh, said, “Extremists attack churches and monasteries just as they attack Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
“Our Muslim brothers are subjected to the same attacks that we are exposed to, and our cause is the same,” he added.
He attributed the growing decline in the numbers of Christians in the Holy Land in part to Christians feeling that they are being targeted by extremists.
Father Musleh called on Christians to return to their lands to face “the targeting of settlers,” noting that they “harass us to displace us, but we will remain until the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.”
Musleh said, “The presence of an extreme right-wing government in Israel not only scares us, but the whole world.”
Over the years, Wadih Abu Nassar, spokesman for the Council of Heads of Catholic Churches in Jerusalem, has, along with the Israeli authorities, pursued numerous attacks.
“We are not talking about individual attacks, but about dozens of attacks over the past few years, most of which were recorded against unknown persons,” he said.
Abu Nassar added, “This matter cannot be accepted.” “Advanced security services must be used to stop hate crimes and bring perpetrators to justice.”
He warned of the development of future attacks and their violation of cemeteries.
Abu Nassar indicated that “the continuation of the attacks will lead the perpetrators to believe that they cannot be touched and that their attacks will not end with graves.”
He pointed out that “hate crimes stem from an educational problem,” adding that “there is a need for a radical solution.”
Abu Nassar recounted examples of how the Israeli authorities treat hate crimes lightly.
And he stressed that “in the case of the assault on the Church of the Gethsemane Grotto in Jerusalem, the perpetrator was arrested, and then declared mentally ill,” explaining: “The Israeli authorities behave strangely in such crimes. If the assault is documented through cameras, the authorities say that the faces are not clear, and when the abusers are caught, they are almost always mentally ill.”
He added, “I do not rule out that the Christian presence is targeted, according to some Jewish fundamentalists, because the Christian is an enemy. There are ideological dimensions, not just political ones, nor do I rule out hatred for some.”