Christian center set on fire, vandalized in suspected Jerusalem hate crime attack

06:00 Feb 26 2015 Church of the Dormition, Jerusalem

Christian center set on fire, vandalized in suspected Jerusalem hate crime attack
A burned door at a center for religion studies belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, February 26, 2015. Photo by Jerusalem Fire and Rescue Services

Damage done to a building belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church near the Old City; graffiti denigrating Jesus was sprayed on one of the walls.

By Nir Hasson for Haaretz

A building belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem was set on fire and vandalized early on Thursday in a hate crime attack.

Firefighters arrived at the scene and extinguished the flames, and classified the fire as arson after an investigation into whether the fire was deliberately set. The forces also found hate graffiti denigrating Jesus sprayed on one of the walls.

Damage was done to parts of the building, but no one was hurt.

The structure, which is used as for religious studies, is located near the Old City's Jaffa Gate.

A mosque in a West Bank village near Bethlehem was torched warly on Wednesday, Palestinain media reported. The report said that settlers that entered Kafr Jab'a also sprayed hate graffiti on the building, including "we want the redemption of Zion," and "revenge."

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said in a statement that both Wednesday and Thursday's attacks were the works of "Israeli terrorists ... protected by a government that claims exclusivity over this land."

Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi echoed Erekat's comments, calling the price tag attacks "terrorism in all respects" and decrying how "criminals still roam freely without any deterrence or punishment."

"If you can kill a Palestinian or cut down an olive tree without penalty," Tibi added, "then you can burn mosques and churches without fear."

Mount Zion, the area where the suspected attack occurred, is one of the more vulnerable areas concerning price tag attacks. In the past two years, there have been dozens of various hate crimes, including the assault of Christian clergymen, graffiti, punctured tired, desecrated grave-sites, smashed gravestones and more.

In May 2014, a nearby church was set aflame shortly after Pope Francis' visit. In 2013, vandals smashed Ottoman ceramic tiles at King David's Tomb, thus destroying the last traces to the compound's Muslim past. Later that year, vandals smashed gravestones of prominent historical figures at a Protestant cemetery on Mount Zion.

Church leaders have often expressed concern about monks and clergy's fears of walking around Mount Zion in uniform due to spitting and harassment.

"In Mount Zion, might makes right, where a bully can do what he wants. There isn't a monk here who doesn't get spat upon - it's part of the job description," a senior official of one of the local churches told Haaretz months ago.

Church leaders have often blamed students at local Yeshivas, visiting from the Diaspora, for the attacks. In recent years, the visiting Yeshiva students have been identified with the "hilltop youth," some of whom have been expelled from the territories. The head of the Yeshiva denied the allegations.


by IMEMC & Agencies

A group of Israeli fanatics burnt, on Thursday at dawn, a section of the Church of the Dormition, in occupied Jerusalem, causing significant damage, and wrote racist anti-Christian graffiti.

The fanatics burnt a study room belonging to the Church, a bathing room, and toilet rooms, used by priests, and students of Christian Studies.

Member of the Fateh Revolutionary Council, secretary-general of the National Christian Assembly in the Holy Land, Dimitri Diliani, said the attack is just the latest of an ongoing cycle of violations targeting Islamic and Christian holy sites in occupied Palestine.

Diliani held Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and his right-wing extremist coalition government, responsible for the escalating violations, stressing that this attack came approximately 24 hours after Israeli fanatics burnt a mosque in al-Jab’a village, west of Bethlehem, and wrote racist anti-Islamic and anti-Arab graffiti.

“Netanyahu and his government are liable for every attack carried out against Islamic and Christian holy sites,” Diliani said, “Those terrorist attacks are carried out by fanatics who receive political, financial and security support from the colonialist, extremist, Israeli government.”

He added that the Palestinians, Muslims and Christians, will never surrender to this brutal and immoral occupation, and that such attack “just expose the true terrorist, fascist, nature of Israel’s right wing and its government.”

The official demanded all churches to sue Israel in the International Criminal Court to hold Tel Aviv Accountable for its ongoing crimes, and to call for international protection to the Palestinian people, their lands and holy sites, until establishing an independent Palestinian State.

On his part, Hanna Issa, secretary-general of the Islamic-Christian Committee in Support of Jerusalem and the Holy Sites, denounced the attacks, and described it as part of ongoing crimes against Islamic and Christian holy sites.

“This is terrorism, and savagery, are carried out with the blessing of the fanatic Israeli government; this attack is just one example of numerous violations in occupied Palestine,” Issa said, “Israel aims at voiding the Arab, Palestinian, identity in the holy land, and is acting on destroying the deeply rooted Arab, Islamic and Christians, history of Palestine.

Issa, who is also an International Law expert, said burning and attacking holy sites violates Section 53 of the First Geneva Protocol of 1977, which outlaws all attacks against holy sites around the word.

He called on the international communities to act and put an end to the Israeli violations against the Palestinians, their homes and lands, and their holy sites in every part of occupied Palestine, and to ensure holding Israel accountable for its crimes, and its ongoing illegal occupation.

It is worth mentioning that on May 31, 2013, Israeli fanatics spray-pained “Jesus is a monkey,” and other racist graffiti, on the walls of the Church of the Dormition. They also wrote “Havat Maon,” which refers to an illegal settlement outpost that was dismantled by the army a few days earlier.

A similar attack against the church was carried out on October 3 2012, while on May 23 2014, the Israeli fanatics wrote “Death to Christianity,” “Jesus is dead,” and “Mary is a prostitute,” on the walls of the Jerusalem Baptist Narkis Congregation Church.

Numerous attacks, that included burning mosques and writing anti-Islamic graffiti, have also been carried out against Islamic sites in different parts of occupied Palestine. The fanatics also burnt and tore copies of the holy Quran.

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- PLO officials on Thursday strongly condemned two attacks on Palestinian Christian and Muslim holy sites in the past 48 hours, holding the Israeli government fully responsible for the violence.

"During the last 48 hours, a Mosque near Bethlehem and a Christian seminary in Occupied East Jerusalem were set on fire by Israeli terrorists," senior PLO official Saeb Erekat said.

"These terrorists have been incited for and protected by a government that claims exclusivity over this land and that justifies its illegal occupation and colonization based on distorted religious claims.

"Those attacks are a direct consequence of the calls for recognition of Israel as a 'Jewish State' and Jerusalem as the eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish people."

Erekat called on the international community to hold Israel accountable for attacks on Palestinian holy sites.

"As a nation that takes pride in its history of religious coexistence, we send our support and solidarity to the Islamic Waqf and to all the Christian Churches in Palestine," he added.

Hanan Ashrawi also strongly condemned the attacks, saying that such hate crimes "are not isolated incidents, but rather, they fit a longstanding pattern of deliberate provocation, extremism and violence, and are a vicious assault on all Palestinians and their holy sites."

British Consul General Alastair McPhail called for a "swift and transparent investigation into the incident and for those responsible to be brought to justice."

"The basic right of freedom to worship in safety and security should be available for everyone from different religions," he added.

On Thursday suspected Jewish extremists set fire to part of a Christian seminary in East Jerusalem's Old City and sprayed "Jesus is a son of a whore" and "Redemption of Zion" on the walls.

A day earlier, extremist Jewish settlers set fire to a mosque in the southern West Bank town of al-Jaba and sprayed racist slogans calling for killing Arabs and Muslims on the walls in Hebrew.
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