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The message accused Christians of "defiling Israel by only breathing its holy air" and tarnishing God's name. Israeli police later arrested a man suspected of issuing the threat to Bishop Marcuzzo.

Palestinian Christians familiar with the incident alleged that the threatening document was written as halacha. Halacha is a comprehensive set of laws, guidelines, and opinions derived from the Hebrew Bible that help some devout Jews to "be holy as I your God am holy." The document describes Christianity as pagan worship and attempts to justify aggression against Christians.

According to sources consulted by CT, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel has condemned as criminal and sinful any price-tag actions and writings. Rabbis and Jewish communities have followed suit.

The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land said that the death threat was received around the same time that unidentified perpetrators vandalized a church and broke its cross in Tabgha, along the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. A mosque was also attacked.

At the time of publication, Assembly leaders told CT that it had not yet received an official response from the Israeli government.

"Our past condemnations have fallen on deaf ears or at best empty promises from [Israeli] officials," read the Assembly's statement, issued following vandalism of the church and mosque.

"[Israeli] officials shouldn't give the perpetrators the impression that they're above the law," the statement said. "The time has come to join forces with a view to ending this dangerous phenomenon."

The Assembly told CT that it received a note of support addressed to Bishop Marcuzzo from a private study center for Jewish-Christian relations in Galilee. It read: "We at the Galilee Center for Studies in Jewish-Christian Relations were shocked and saddened to learn of three recent attacks against Christians in the Galilee."

"It is especially disturbing to note that these actions took place precisely as the country was readying itself to commemorate the massacre of six million Jews in the Shoah. The slogan 'never again!' requires Jews to prevent fanaticism, prejudice, and violence from gaining the upper hand, especially in Israel. It is the duty of every Israeli to speak out against this reprehensible behavior against our own citizens and residents."

"Christians are woven deeply into the fabric of the Galilee. We stand in solidarity with our Christian friends and neighbors, students and teachers. Together we must strive to eradicate this xenophobic tendency that exists among us," it added. "We call on the state of Israel to pursue this criminal matter with the utmost seriousness."

Full-Blown Racism?

So far, no one has been successfully prosecuted despite hundreds of arrests made, according to the AFP French news agency and evangelical Christian Arabs, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

They said that some 400 incidents were perpetrated against Christians and Muslims in Israel and the Palestinian Authority areas last year. Israeli police report that most of those arrested are minors—under age 18—complicating the juridical process.

But critics say that because the vandalism is classified as crime rather than terrorism, the bar for police searches and arrests is set high. Evidence can be hard to get because assailants often act alone. It's also believed that police are not permitted to search a home without a court order, and can only detain a suspect for 24 hours without charge. This can add a lot of time pressure to locate evidence.

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