Clerics and politicians visit Latrun Monastery

Deputy FM Ayalon condemns vandalism attack as "act of terror," says during visit: "It is not the way of Zionism or Judaism."

Price-tag attack in Latrun 370 (photo credit: MELANIE LIDMAN)
Price-tag attack in Latrun 370
(photo credit: MELANIE LIDMAN)
Political and religious leaders continued to express their solidarity with the monks of the Latrun Monastery that was vandalized early Tuesday morning.
Several delegations visited the site during the course of Wednesday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon visited the monastery during the afternoon and met with the abbot of the monastery, Father Rene.
“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 incident.
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 the monastery.
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 Rabbis.
“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 image.
“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 educational leadership.”
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.
A group of communal activists from Beit Shemesh also went to the monastery Wednesday morning to express their solidarity with the monks.
The group, 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 leaving.
“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 visit.
“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 behavior.”
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.
“They told 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 incident.
“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.
“With 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.