Christianity in Jerusalem Under Attack? Extremists Hit Another Church

Another Christian church in Jerusalem was vandalized by spray-painted death threats and vulgar remarks against Christianity Sunday night, in what is being described by police as another "price tag" attack by Jewish extremists.

"Death to Christianity," "Mary was a prostitute," and "We will crucify you" were found graffitied at the Narkis Street Baptist Congregation on Sunday, believed to be the latest "price tag" attacks by extremist Jews protesting non-Jewish settlements and communities being built in the area.

The extremists have targeted Muslims as well – two weeks ago both a Christian monastery and a peace school in Jerusalem set up to improve ties between Arab and Jewish children were reportedly targeted by Jewish extremists. The vandals wrote hate speech on the facilities' walls in separate incidents, calling for the death of Christians and a "holocaust" for Arabs.

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It is possible that the latest incident was not done by the exact same group of people, Jerusalem police shared with Copycats who sympathize with the message and want to terrorize Christians in the city may actually be responsible. 

"It's intolerably easy," one senior Jerusalem police officer said. "Any child can take a spray can and spray it, and people know it will be broadcast. Not every case is really nationalistic."

Faith-based attacks have been increasing in regularity in recent months, however, and the Haaretz report highlighted such cases, like the torching of cars belonging to Arab residents of Jerusalem's Kiryat Moshe neighborhood; spray-painting of slogans on a Christian cemetery on Mount Zion; threats graffitied at Peace Now's office in the capital; and an arson attack on an ancient mosque in the city's Geula neighborhood.

"It's almost impossible to pass through Jaffa Gate without this happening," a senior Armenian priest at one Jerusalem church said, sharing that Christians, especially priests, who pass by the Jewish quarter of the city are spat on almost daily. The spitting has apparently become so prevalent that some priests have simply stopped going to certain parts of the Old City.

The Narkis Street Baptist Congregation's pastor, Charles Kopp, also expressed sadness that houses of worship are targeted in such a way.

"It hurts us that anyone could even think we deserve such treatment. They don't know us, but they apparently oppose anyone who doesn't identity with them. I wish them well; I have no desire for revenge," he said – the church was torched in 1982 and again in 2007, Haaretz revealed.

Jewish church leaders, however, have largely condemned the attacks on Christians in Jerusalem and affirmed their solidarity with the vandalized churches.

"The rabbi and cantor from the synagogue across the street came the same day [as the vandalism] with a huge bouquet of flowers and a note of solidarity and friendship," Kopp said. "Another Israeli lady came in with flowers and when I asked if she was also a neighbor, she said no, she was just a concerned Israeli citizen. There has been much outpouring of solidarity and friendship from Israelis."

Christian leaders in Jerusalem and an Israeli government representative gathered at the Baptist church on Tuesday, Israel Today reported, and discussed ways of moving forward together.

"You have extremists everywhere, but Israel has consistently stood with its minorities," said Herbby Geer, the official Southern Baptist Convention representative in Israel. "We know that there is a 'price tag' for standing for what we believe, and we know that most Israelis want us to be who we are."

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