Political and religious leaders continued to express their solidarity with the
monks of the Latrun Monastery that was vandalized early Tuesday
Several delegations visited the site during the course of
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon visited the monastery
during the afternoon and met with the abbot of the monastery, Father
“In the name of the government of Israel and the people of Israel,
I came here to shake your hand,” Ayalon told the Abbot. “This act of terrorism
against you harms not only the people of the monastery but also the Jewish
people and the State of Israel.”
“It is not the way of Zionism or
Judaism, but the very opposite,” he continued, adding that the government would
not allow freedom of religion and worship to be harmed and would do everything
to bring the culprits to justice.
Father Rene thanked Ayalon, saying that
his visit and words moved the monks and gave them strength following the
Earlier in the day, rabbis from the Reform Movement conducted a
prayer service at the monastery in protest of the so-called “price tag” attack
against the monastery, in which vandals spray painted “Jesus is a monkey” and
the words “mutual responsibility” along with the names of evacuated illegal
outposts Upper Migron and Maoz Esther, in large orange letters on the outside of
They also burned the wooden door at the monastery
entrance, apparently in protest at the evacuation of the Migron settlement
outpost on Sunday.
After the service Father Rene and several monks met
with the rabbis and thanked them for their support, and Reform Movement director
Rabbi Gilad Kariv read them a letter signed by the Council of Progressive
“During these tough times for your community, we wish to hold
your hand and stand by your side,” the letter read.
“We feel that this
deed desecrated the house of prayer that is your monastery, and desecrated the
Jewish tradition and its faith in one God, that we are all created in His
“We have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of Israelis
completely oppose this act and feel ashamed because of it... and we hope that
the law enforcement agencies do what is required of them, apprehend the
perpetrators, bring them to justice as well as dealing with the atmosphere in
which these deeds have been carried out, created by the rabbinical, public and
Kariv also told the monks that the Reform
Movement had initiated a fundraising drive in the Reform community in Israel and
abroad to pay in order to repair the damage done to the monastery.
group of communal activists from Beit Shemesh also went to the monastery
Wednesday morning to express their solidarity with the monks.
who has been involved in a campaign against ultra-Orthodox extremism, brought
flowers to the monastery and helped scrub off the graffiti from the walls before
“We came to say that this is not the Jewish way at all and that
we condemn what was done here,” said Rabbi Dov Lipman who organized the
“We in Beit Shemesh live close by and so it was important for us
to express our desire to live together in peace, with good inter-communal
relations and to emphasize that Judaism does not allow or tolerate this kind of
Approximately 100 people turned up for a solidarity concert on
Wednesday night organized by Tag Mei’r (light tag), an anti-racism and extremism
group set up to combat the price-tag phenomenon.
Father Louis Wahabeh,
one of the monks at the monastery, told The Jerusalem Post that he was very
moved by the visits.
“We were very surprised, and impressed, and it was
with great happiness that we discovered such people,” he said.
us that they were pained and embarrassed over such actions and that they came to
stand in solidarity with us. This gave us much happiness.”
Of the attack
itself Wahabeh said he had “no words,” adding that in the history of the
monastery and in his personal lifetime he had never experienced such an
“The attack caused us terrible pain in our hearts, but we also
know and are sure that this small group of extremist terrorists is not
representative of the Israeli people.”
Separately, Italian Foreign
Minister Giulio Terzi – currently in Israel on a diplomatic visit – presented
the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal with the Grand Cross of Honor of the
Order of the Star of Italy for his work for the Christian community of the Latin
Patriachate of Jerusalem, which incorporates Israel, the Palestinian Authority,
Jordan and Cyprus.
In accepting the award, Twal thanked Terzi for Italy’s
support of the patriachate’s various projects and activities and for Rome’s
commitment to religious freedom “as one of the fundamental human rights, which
are, unfortunately increasingly under threat,” adding that all efforts must be
made to “promote peace in this Holy Land.”
“A peace however must be built
upon justice, freedom of movement, access to the holy places for the faithful of
all religions, with respect and safety for all,” continued Twal.
His Holiness Pope Benedict we continue to pray for the two-state solution, that
Jerusalem be a city for three religions and two peoples and that the Holy Land
be free of checkpoints and walls, physical and psychological barriers... In this
mission we are called to unite our efforts and our prayers for the good of the
peoples of this Land.”
On Tuesday, Twal, who also serves as president of
the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, who are the heads of the
different Catholic rites in the region, denounced the attack on the Latrun
monastery as “only another in a long series of attacks against Christians and
their places of worship.”
Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.