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Israeli police investigate 'hate crime' after Catholic monastery vandalized

Desecration at Beit Jamal, December 2015
Latin Patriarchate
Vandals smash windows and destroy statue of the Virgin Mary at Beit Jamal monastery, west of Jerusalem

The Beit Jamal Monastery, situated west of Jerusalem, was vandalized this week, the Times of Israel reported on Friday.

The vandals reportedly destroyed a statue of the Virgin Mary, smashed stained-glass windows and damaged furniture in the Catholic monastery, which is believed to be the burial site of St Stephen, the first martyr.

Israeli police have opened an investigation into the vandalism, looking into the possibility that it was a hate crime.

Beit Jamal has been defaced in the past, once in 2013 when vandals firebombed the church and in 2016 when crosses in the adjacent cemetery were knocked down.

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.

Beit Jamal is near the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh, in the Judean Hills, west of Jerusalem. The Catholic monastery is run by the Salesian order.

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