'Price-Tag' Attack at Latrun Monastery Draws Condemnation From Israeli Leaders
Update (July 1, 2013): Nearly 10 months after anti-Christian graffiti appeared on the entryway of Latrun Monastery, located just west of Jerusalem, Reuters reports that police have arrested one Israeli in connection with the attack.
Following the recent evacuation of an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank, vandals attacked a 120-year-old Trappist monastery just west of Jerusalem, setting the door on fire and spray painting the phrase "Jesus is a monkey" in the entryway.
Other Christian sites in Israel have experienced similar attacks in recent months. But the attack at Latrun Monastery drew condemnation from top Israeli leaders, as well as exasperation from Catholic leaders in Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu swiftly condemned the attack as a "criminal act" for which "those responsible must be severely punished."
"Religious freedom and worship are two of the most basic institutions in Israel," he said.
Defense minister Ehud Barak also issued a call to Israel's national security agency, the police, and state prosecutors to end Jewish terrorism.
"This must be fought with an iron fist, and we must put an end to these severe phenomenon that stain the name of the state of Israel," he said.
Catholic leaders in Israel also spoke out against the vandalism. Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Vatican's chief guardian of Israeli's holy sites, expressed his frustration at increasing animosity toward Christians and lackluster response by politicians and the general public, citing when a Knesset member recently ripped a copy of the New Testament in front of the camera.
"It was shocking," said Pizzaballa. "If you as a Jew want people to respect you, you need to respect others."
The attack is suspected to be another "price tag" attack by Jewish extremists upset over the evacuation of illegal settlements. According to CNN, such attacks exact a "'price' against Palestinian targets or Israeli security forces in response to actions by the Israeli government."
A group of Jewish activists later cleaned away the anti-Christian graffiti.
CT previously reported on an earlier price-tag attack in Israel.