A historic Christian cemetery on Mount Zion in Jerusalem was vandalized on Sunday, apparently by two Jewish men, reported ABC News, Harretz, The Times of Israel, and other media.
Security cameras taped the two men entering the cemetery and toppling some of the headstones with crucifixes, at 3:25 p.m. on Jan 1. In all, more than 30 graves were desecrated.
The cemetery was established in 1848 and is owned by the Anglican Church Missionary Trust Association. Local Anglicans and Lutherans help to maintain the cemetery.
According to ABC News, “Widely shared security camera footage on Sunday showed two young men — both wearing a Jewish skullcap and tzitzit, the knotted ritual fringes worn by observant Jews — breaking into the cemetery, knocking over stone crosses and smashing and stomping on tombstones, leaving a trail of debris and broken headstones.”
The Times of Israel reported, “Security camera video shared on social media showed two apparently Jewish men wearing kippot pulling over tombstones or dropping rocks and masonry on graves to damage them.”
One of the damaged grave sites is of Samuel Gobat, the second Protestant bishop in Jerusalem. He died in 1879. Other graves vandalized included “three of British police officers from the British Mandate period and others of the Protestant community,” reported Haarretz.
“The cemetery has been vandalized a number of times in the past, and in recent years Christian clergy in the area have suffered from abuse on the part of religious and Haredi Jews,” said Haaretz. “Recently, two Givati infantry brigade soldiers were questioned on suspicions they spit at a procession of Armenian priests in the Old City of Jerusalem.”
One Protestant who asked not to be identified told Haaretz, “We are worried. This comes after priests were spat at. There was a case of an attack in the Old City; as a community we are very worried. Our feeling is that they are trying to minimize these incidents, and it does not receive political attention.”
“These things are heating up,” he said. “Every few years, they desecrate the cemetery. Our hope is that the police and political system will take this incident seriously and do everything they can to protect the communities, with their religious heritage in the city. We want to be optimistic that the authorities will provide us with support.”
Asia News reported, “For some time, the Christian leaders of the Holy Land have been sounding the alarm about an escalation of Jewish-based radicalism, which threatens the very survival of the communities.”
“The attack on Mount Zion is only the latest in a long series of intimidating attacks, some of them signed ‘price tags’ and linked to settlers or Jewish extremists,” said Asia News. “In the past they have struck various targets, including the church near the Cenacle, the Basilica of Nazareth or Catholic and Greek Orthodox buildings. Mosques and Muslim places of worship have also been targeted.”
In a Tweet on Tuesday, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said, “This act is neither religious nor ethical, and its perpetrators must be brought to justice. The State of Israel has guaranteed since its founding freedom of worship and religion for members of every faith, and will continue to be such a home.”
Tag Meir, an Israeli group that works “to eradicate racism and violence in Israel,” told Haaretz that Israeli police have a station at the cemetery but this “has not succeeded in avoiding the recurrence of these crimes.”
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