Diplomacy & defense

Desecration at Beit Jamal, December 2015
Dozens of crosses were destroyed in December attack

In mid-December, vandals destroyed dozens of crosses at a Christian cemetery west of Jerusalem, the Latin Patriarchate in the city said Saturday, urging Israeli authorities to bring the culprits to justice.

The church did not say who was behind the desecration but in recent years there have been a spate of hate crimes targeting churches and Christian cemeteries, with the perpetrators believed to be Jewish extremists.

"Salesian fathers responsible for the monastery in Beit Jamal reported that unknown persons desecrated their monastery's cemetery," the patriarchate said in a statement.

"The fathers reported also that tens of crosses were destroyed at their cemetery," it said.

Beit Jamal is near the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem.

Vandals previously desecrated the cemetery of the Catholic monastery of Beit Jamal, which is run by the Salesian order, in September 1981, said the statement.

The patriarchate urged "the police... and the Israeli authorities in general to invest every possible effort" to bring to justice those responsible for this and past desecrations.

"We do hope that more efforts be made to educate all inhabitants of the country to respect each other despite their different religious backgrounds," said the English language statement.

In April, vandals had smashed gravestones at a Maronite Christian cemetery in a village near Israel's northern border with Lebanon.

In June, arsonists attacked the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee where many Christians believe Jesus fed 5,000 people in the miracle of the five loaves and two fish.

One building within the compound was totally destroyed in the blaze but the church itself was not damaged.

Hebrew graffiti was scrawled on another building that read "idols will be cast out" or destroyed -- part of a common Jewish prayer.

Two suspected Jewish extremists were charged in connection with the arson and graffiti, and Israel said it would compensate church officials for the damage.

(Staff with AFP)

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