“We are praying for those who hate us”
The Abbey of the Dormition in Jerusalem has once again been targeted by vandals. Jewish extremists are most likely behind the attack. On Saturday night, 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 establishments of the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic church. The graffiti, which had been 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” or “Erased be His name”. A sword dripping with blood was also drawn next to a Star of David.
The community of monks reacted with dismay to the incidents. “We are praying for those who hate us,” Father Nikodemus Schnabel, subprior of the monastery, said to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).“If we are being attacked because we are Christians, then we want to react as Christians.” When asked, Father Nikodemus was not able to explain why the extremists had targeted the Abbey of the Dormition yet again. However, he emphasised that the Jewish community had reacted with commiseration. Father Nikodemus said, “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, that the hatred may disappear from their hearts.”
In the meantime, he has called for the Israeli authorities to act. Father Nikodemus said, “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 vitriolic graffiti was discovered. However, Father Nikodemus said that nothing has happened to date.
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 of 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 since been arrested. The priory sustained damage totalling more than 1.6 million euros. Two people suffered from smoke poisoning. It remains unclear how much of the costs for the reconstruction of the destroyed parts of the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes the state of Israel will undertake to pay.
For years now, Christian and Muslim churches and establishments have been under attack by what are presumably Jewish extremists. The perpetrators are suspected to be primarily extremist Jews who support the Settlement movement. Hardly any arrests and convictions have been made. Most recently, in December the cemetery of the Salesian monastery of Beit Gemal in Israel was desecrated. Unknown persons overturned and damaged crosses.