- (Photo: AP Images / Bernat Armangue)
Both a Christian monastery and a peace school in Jerusalem set up to improve ties between Arab and Jewish children were targets of extremists who wrote hate speech on the facilities' walls in separate incidents last week, calling for the death of Christians and a "holocaust" for Arabs.
"Death to Christians" was written at a Jerusalem Christian monastery, an 11th-century holy site situated in a valley overlooking the Israeli parliament, while "Death to Arabs" and "Shoah [Holocaust] for the Arabs" was spray painted at a bilingual children's school. Police are still investigating to determine whether the attacks were carried out by the same group of people, but all evidence points to Jewish extremists.
"Kahane was right" was another inscription found on the walls at the school, U.K. publication the Independent reported. The inscription is reportedly a reference to an ultra-right wing rabbi whose movement, Kach, was barred from contesting Israeli elections in 1988 and listed by the US State Department as a terrorist organization in 2002.
Max Rayne Hand in Hand Jerusalem School, which is the only one of its kind in the city, was opened in 2007 with a vision of bringing together two divided communities by helping Muslim and Jewish children learn together in the same classrooms. The vandalism incidents are being called a "price tag" attack, or retribution against the Israeli government for trying to curb Jewish settlements in the area.
"It (the school) has been a huge success and these radicals don't know how to handle this reality. It is very hurtful to see this graffiti, it is not just against Muslims but against Jews, against everyone. It puts a strain on democracy but it will make our group bigger and stronger," said Paz Cohen, the Jewish joint chairman of Max Rayne Hand in Hand.
"It wasn't just written here, where young children from the ages 3 to 18 study together in coexistence, for no reason. We are trying to digest these horrifying inscriptions," added Nadia Knani, the school's principal.
"I am a priest and I forgive," was the only thing Father Claudio of the Orthodox Christian monastery could say, Haaretz.com reported.
David Nekrutman, Executive Director at the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation in Efrat, Israel, spoke with The Christian Post about the incident, offering an overview of bipartisan relations in Israel.
"There are other schools with Jews and Arabs learning together in Israel, though you will find them more in the northern parts, where communities are integrated better," Nekrutman said. "There are over one million Arabs, mostly Muslims, living in Israel, who are residents or full citizens. The other six million people are Jews."
The CJCUC executive director said that schools like Max Rayne Hand in Hand are unique because they are also developing inter-faith programs and the students learn both in Hebrew and Arabic.
"There are extremists in every country – but to do an act like this needs to be condemned by religious figures. The Christian community should not be targeted in this way – if this were to happen in America with the Jewish community being targeted, it would be called anti-Semitism," he said of the vandal attack.
He continued, "Incidents like this do not happen very often – but when they do happen, you have to make sure they are nipped in the bud.
"For Israel to remain a strong Jewish and democratic country, these attacks born only out of bigotry and extremism must be stopped. We call on Jews everywhere – both religious and non-religious--to fight extremism and hatred, which desecrate God's Holy Name."
"The God of Israel is the God of life and love, not a God of violence and hatred," a statement by the CJCUC added.
Jerusalem continues to be radically divided on certain other issues, such as the Biblical Temple Mount, which is said by some Christian Bible scholars to be the site where all the nations will gather to worship when the Messiah returns.
The Temple Mount has been one of the most hotly disputed religious sites for the past few centuries and has been one of the main points of tension between Israel and Palestine, as both Jewish and Muslim authorities have been locked in a stalemate over what to do with what is believed to be a temple visited by the presence of God. It is currently under the authority of Islam officials, and remains closed off to members of all others faiths, despite protests by Jews.