Vandals desecrate Latrun monastery in price-tag hit
By MELANIE LIDMAN AND JEREMY SHARON
Suspected right-wing extremists spray anti-Christian graffiti, targeting Palestinian property in Migron evacuation rebuke.
Suspected right-wing extremists vandalized the Latrun Monastery outside
Jerusalem early on Tuesday morning, in the first “price tag” attack following
the evacuation of Migron on Sunday.
The vandals spray painted “Jesus is a
monkey” and the words “mutual responsibility” along with the names of illegal
outposts Upper Migron and Maoz Esther, in large orange letters on the outside of
the monastery. They also burned the wooden door at the monastery
The attack occurred at around 3:30 a.m. and was quickly
discovered by the monks, who put the fire out and notified
Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben- Ruby said that police
immediately formed a special investigative unit to find the
Eight policemen are assigned to the special unit, he
“This is a criminal act and those responsible must be severely
punished,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in response to the attack.
“Religious freedom... is fundamental in Israel.”
expressed mixed emotions to the attack.
“We said the evacuation of Migron
would raise the anger and burning incitement from a public who feels
embittered,” said extreme right-wing politician Baruch Marzel. “I hope that in
the future the government and courts will avoid steps that only strengthen the
polarization in the country and lead to price tag [attacks].”
with the right-wing organization Im Tirtzu expressed their outrage at the
incident and traveled to the monastery on Tuesday afternoon to clean off the
graffiti, bringing flowers for the monks.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak
condemned the attack and issued a call to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency),
police and state prosecution to “tackle Jewish terrorism.”
“This must be
fought with an iron fist, and we must put an end to these severe phenomenons
that stain the name of the State of Israel. We are obligated to uproot this
phenomenon,” Barak added.
The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy
Land, an umbrella body of Catholic officials in the region, denounced the
incident as “only another in a long series of attacks against Christians and
their places of worship.”
“What is going on in Israeli society today that
permits Christians to be scapegoated and targeted by these acts of violence?”
the group asked in a statement to the media.
“Those who sprayed their
hateful slogans expressed their anger at the dismantlement of the illegal Jewish
settlements in the West Bank. But why do they vent this anger against Christians
and Christian places of worship? And why are the culprits not found and brought
to justice?” Reaction also came from political quarters, with Labor leader
Shelly Yacimovich labeling the incident “racism and hooliganism.”
is a beautiful monastery which Israelis have visited for decades. The fact that
it was hit by vandals indicates extreme hatred [by the attackers] for anyone and
everyone, regardless of their political position,” she said.
added that the attack was committed by “an extreme minority that does not
represent Israeli society, and not even the majority of settlers.
are damaging Israel’s image.”
Several interfaith groups spoke out against
the attack, including the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, a
body which represents the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the Palestinian Authority
Wakf and Religious Affairs Ministry and The Heads of the Local Churches of the
“The council calls upon people from all faiths – Christians,
Jews and Muslims – to respect all holy places and sites for all three religions,
and strongly discourages extremists’ behavior that exploits or involves religion
in a political/territorial dispute,” the group said in a
Following the evacuation of Migron on Sunday, Judea and
Samaria District commander Asst.-Ch. Amos Yaakov said police were preparing for
increased price-tag incidents.
“I assume that there will be an increase
in price-tag incidents, and we have carried out preparations for this,” Yaakov
said on Sunday.
According to Ben-Ruby, this was the first attack against
the Latrun Monastery. However, it was not the first time price tag vandals
vandalized a Christian site.
In February, two cars and a stone fence at
the Valley of the Cross Monastery in Jerusalem were covered with anti-Christian
graffiti, and cars’ tires were slashed. The vandals wrote “Jesus drop dead,”
“Death to Christians” and “Kahane was right,” calling themselves “The Maccabees
In December 2011, two United Arab List-Ta’al MKs, Ahmed Tibi
and Ibrahim Sarsour, proposed a bill that would impose a mandatory six-year
sentence on anyone found guilty of vandalizing a house of worship.
Latrun Monastery of the Silent Monks was a waystation for pilgrims on their way
from Jaffa to Jerusalem in the 19th century. The current building was
constructed in 1890. Until 1960, monks living on the premises took a vow of
silence and only spoke during prayer.
Today the monastery is open to the
public during select hours.
Ben Hartman, Yaakov Lappin, Gil Hoffman and
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.