Officials in Israel are taking seriously a recent upsurge in attacks on clergy, and vandalism of Christian sites. The most recent attacks led Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Israeli Police Commissioner, Maj-Gen Yaakov Shabtai, to meet leaders of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches of the Holy Land.
“In recent months,” Herzog said, “We have seen very serious phenomena towards the Christian denominations in the Holy Land. Our brothers and sisters, Christian citizens, who feel attacked in their places of prayer, in their cemeteries, on the streets.”
Christians in Jerusalem’s Old City say they are often harassed and even physically attacked by religious Jewish youths.
“I view this phenomenon as extreme and unacceptable in any shape or form,” Herzog cautioned. “This phenomenon needs to be uprooted.
Earlier incidents include the desecration of a Protestant cemetery on Mt Zion, an attack on international Christians during a day of prayer for Jerusalem, and harassment at a Messianic concert in Jerusalem.
Herzog’s admonition directed toward the youths and their supporters was clear: “We must respect the members of all religions. We have committed to this since the dawn of our existence. This is the most basic commandment of ‘love your neighbour as yourself’.” Church leaders expressed their desire to work together with Israeli authorities.
Speaking in Haifa, Shabtai said the police are working to eradicate incidents and trends that affect the sense of security. “We are here to reassure you of that and to offer any assistance that may be required.,” he pledged. “As part of the cooperation between all the parties, we are working to bridge the gaps in places of conflict, while simultaneously striving to provide the vital sense of security.”
David Parsons, vice president at the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, says the attacks are coming from a fringe element. “Most Israelis welcome Christians here,” Parsons explained. “They welcome Christian support. But there does seem to be a fringe, a small fringe, on the religious right, that for whatever motivations, are trying to harass and give trouble for Christians here.”