Israeli inter-faith group condemns vandalism at Christian monastery

David Nekrutman, director of the Center for Christian Jewish Understanding and Cooperation in Israel, strongly condemned an attack on the Latrun Monastery. Nekrutman called the attack by Jewish extremists "indefensible." "This morning, I visited the monastery and was horrified to see the mindless vandalism," said Nekrutman. "The monks who live there are well known for their commitment to peaceful coexistence with all their neighbors. This shameful attack goes against our Jewish values." 
 
Nekrutman conveyed to the abbot at the monastery his outrage, while reaffirming his organization's commitment to working for tolerance and understanding between the Jewish and Christian communities of Israel. The CCJUC said in a press release that it seeks to promote fellowship and support between two faith communities.
 
Reports by the Jerusalem Post and wire services that graffiti, including the phrase "Jesus is a monkey," was smeared in Hebrew on the walls of the Latrun monastery during the early morning hours of September 4. The vandals also burned the wooden door of the 19th century monastery besides spray-painting the exterior walls.
 
Israeli police are investigating the crime and suspect that it was a so-called 'Price-Tag' attack exacted by extremists among displaced West Bank Jewish settlers. Police have opened a special investigation into the incident,, as security officials express concern about further acts of retribution on the part of a suspected vigilante campaign waged by the settlers.
 
It was on September 2 that a court-ordered eviction of 50 families took place at Migron, a settlement near the West Bank city of Ramallah. Israeli police surmise that the vandalism at the Latrun Monastery was part of a vendetta, according to the Times of Israel and the Jerusalem Post.
 
"Migron" and the words "Jesus is a monkey" were among the graffiti painted on the monastery's walls, which is within Israel and near the West Bank. 
 
The so-called "Price-Tag" incidents have gained their moniker as extremists seek to exact a price from non-Jews for the actions of the Jewish state in evicting Jewish settlers. The Jerusalem Post reported that after the Migron eviction on September 2, Police Commander Amos Yaakov of Judea and Samaria said,  "I assume that there will be an increase in 'Price Tag' incidents, and we have carried out preparations for this."
 
The vandalism at the Latrun Monastery happened during the pre-dawn hours in Israel on September 4. The resident monks quickly notified the Israeli police. The monastery was built in the 19th century as a place of rest for Christian pilgrims on their way from Jaffa to Jerusalem. It is operated by Catholic monks of the Trappist order and known as the Monasterie de Notre Dame de Sept-Douleurs. Nearby is the village of Neve Shalom - 'oasis of peace' in Hebrew - that was founded in the 1970s by Israeli Jews and those of other faiths as a living experiment in peaceful human relations.


Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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