Jerusalem: 'We are praying for those who hate us'

"We are thankful for all of our friends in Israel who stand by us in solidarity. "


By Oliver Maksan

NEW YORK—The Abbey of the Dormition in Jerusalem has once again been targeted by vandals. During the night of Jan. 16, 2016, unknown persons defaced the walls and doors of the German-speaking Benedictine monastery on the outer edges of the Old City of Jerusalem. Also targeted were nearby buildings belonging to the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic Church.

The graffiti, written in Hebrew and in several different handwriting styles, proclaimed: “Christians go to hell,” “Death to heathen Christians, the heretical enemies of Israel,“ “Revenge for Israelis” and “Erased be His name.” A sword dripping with blood was drawn next to a Star of David.On Jan. 21, Israeli police arrested two Jewish teenagers suspected in the vandalizing.

The community of monks reacted with dismay to the incidents. “We are praying for those who hate us,” Father Nikodemus Schnabel, sub-prior of the monastery, told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. “If we are being attacked because we are Christians, then we want to react as Christians,” he added.

Father Nikodemus emphasized that the Jewish community had reacted with commiseration: “We are thankful for all of our friends in Israel who stand by us in solidarity. We as monks of the Abbey of the Dormition will not cease praying for reconciliation, justice and peace—as well as for the perpetrators of last night; may the hatred disappear from their hearts.”

The monk also called for Israeli authorities to act: “We ask that the security forces take this criminal act seriously and finally take steps to improve the security situation on Mount Zion, something which has been promised to us since the summer of 2013.” The police had already approved the installation of cameras in the summer of 2013, after parked cars belonging to the monastery were heavily damaged and offensive graffiti was discovered. However, Father Nikodemus said that nothing had been done as yet.

Grafitti on the wall of the Abbey of the Dormition, Jerusale

In the last few years, the Benedictine community has repeatedly been targeted by what are suspected to be Jewish extremists. Shortly after the visit of Pope Francis in May 2014, an attempt was made to set fire to the abbey church in Jerusalem. Up until this point, the worst incidence has been the arson attack on Tabgha Priory, which belongs to the monastic community and lies on the Sea of Galilee, in June of 2015. The perpetrators, Jewish extremists, have been arrested.

The priory sustained damages totalling more than $1.8M. Two people suffered smoke inhalation. It remains unclear how much of the cost of the reconstruction of the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes the Israeli government will agree to pay.

For years now, Christian and Muslim churches and establishments have come under attack by suspected Jewish extremists. The perpetrators are believed to extremist Jews who support the settlement movement. There have been few arrests and convictions. Most recently, in December the cemetery of the Salesian monastery of Beit Gemal was desecrated. Unidentified persons overturned and damaged crosses.

Graffiti on the wall of the Abbey of the Dormition, Jerusalem

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