Price tag attack on Dormition Abbey 370.
(photo credit: Courtesy Dormition Abbey)
In the past week we have seen yet another set of “tag machir” (“price tag”)
vandalism in Israel. Tires were punctured, and graffiti was painted on walls, in
villages of Zubaidat and Marj Naje, in the Jordan Valley, with similar incidents
in Shuafat and Sheikh Jarrah in the Jerusalem area, and in Rantis, near
Ramallah. In every case the graffiti called for revenge, and in some the term
“price tag” appeared.
During this same period, Dormition Abbey in
Jerusalem was vandalized, with the words “Christian monkeys” spray-painted on
This follows similar incidents in the past few months at the
Monastery of the Cross, at the Baptist church on Narkiss Street in western
Jerusalem, at the monastery in Latrun, as well as at a number of mosques around
the country. Often the graffiti refers to a particular situation that its
writers are avenging.
One wonders why so many churches and mosques have
been included in the rampage.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other
politicians rightly denounce these acts as illegal and racist, and the police
repeat their mantra that they are looking for the culprits. Politicians speak of
“extremist settlers” when seeking to identify the criminals of the price-tag
vandalism and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni has been working with members of the
Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip and other
settler leaders to take a firm stance against these acts. Racism certainly is at
the core of these attacks, but racism and revenge do not explain the attacks on
churches and mosques.
Given the ugly history of anti-Semitism around the
world, one might expect Jews to be particularly sensitive to attacks on other
religions. Yet despite the increasing number of price-tag attacks in the past
year, we have not heard a public outcry against them, aside from a laudable
group called “Tag Me’ir” (“Light Tag”), whose members have followed up after
each attack to show support for the victims.
It would seem that Israeli
Jews are not troubled enough by these attacks. Their complacency may derive from
their appalling lack of education about other religions. The perpetrators of the
price-tag attacks may be hoodlums, but our educational system helps to create
the sentiments behind these attacks.
JPOST VIDEOS THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU:
Israeli Jews generally learn very
little about Christianity or Islam, and religious schools offer their students
In my education in Orthodox Jewish schools in the United
States, I was taught two basic ideas about Christianity: They either want to
kill us or convert us, so beware. My sense is that most Israelis have a similar
sense of Christianity.
Should we be surprised that there is little
outrage when Christians are perceived as being on the receiving end of even a
small part of what we once suffered at their hands? It is understandable that
the yeshiva world has chosen to respond to the perceived and real threats of
modernity by becoming more and more insular. As a teacher of Torah, I understand
the need and desire to assure a significant knowledge of and confidence in
Jewish texts. Why must this embrace of Torah be expressed as a triumphalist
rejection of the worth of anything outside of Judaism? Most Orthodox Jews assume
and teach that Christianity is to be considered idolatry. Yet the
late-13th-century scholar Rabbi Menahem Hameiri maintained that Christians in
his day should not be considered as the idolaters of old. He wrote this at a
time that Jews suffered as a minority in Christendom.
How much more so in
Israel, where Jews are the majority culture, should we be more generous-minded
toward our Christian neighbors? For many Jews in Israel there is a sense that we
are threatened in some way by the Christians in our midst. In 2013, we are
strong, and we are the majority culture in Israel.
Why is there fear of a
church? If Jews understood more about Christianity, we would know that there is
little to fear and much to respect. How many Jews know what is good and
compelling in the stories of Jesus in the New Testament? There are more than 4
billion Christians in the world today.
What compels so many people to
this faith? Answering these questions rarely leads to conversion, but it may
well lead to greater respect.
Yes, there is a history of persecution; yes
there are missionaries.
But how many Jews know about Nostra Aetate, the
1965 statement of the Catholic Church acknowledging the history of anti-Semitism
in the Church and rejecting it? In the past 20 to 50 years almost every
Christian denomination has confronted its history of anti-Semitism and has
I have been involved in an initiative called New Paths:
Christians Engaging Israel through collaboration between the Shalom Hartman
Institute in Jerusalem and Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I have
been working with a team of Christian academics and church leaders to produce
course materials to teach North American Christians to develop deeper and more
complex ideas about Judaism and Israel. In our first course, “Images of Israel,”
we call upon Christians to examine the history of Christian attitudes toward
Jews in order to open up the possibility of respectful encounters.
Jews and Israelis, we want to be understood by the world.
Yet we are not
working hard enough to educate our own children and adults about the others who
live among us.
Dr. Marcie Lenk is a member of the iEngage Project and
co-director of New Paths: Christians Engaging Israel. Learn more about New Paths
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>