Christian Graves Desecrated in Historic Jerusalem Cemetery
JERUSALEM: The diocese in Jerusalem shared that more than 30 graves were found toppled and vandalized at a historic Christian cemetery in Jerusalem. The incident jolted the Christian minority in the contested city.
The diocese cautioned that the desecration of the cemetery should be seen as an ominous warning about “hatred against Christians.”
Among the destroyed tombs was one containing a 19th century bust of Samuel Gobat. The second Protestant Bishop in Jerusalem who died in 1879, the Episcopal diocese said.
The cemetery also houses the graves of dozens of Palestinian police officers killed during the First and Second World Wars. It also has graves of Christian leaders who died in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Some 16,000 Christians live in Jerusalem, the majority of whom are Palestinian. Israel claims Jerusalem as its eternal capital, while Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital for their hoped-for independent state.
Widely shared security camera footage on Sunday showed two young men — both wearing a Jewish skullcap and tzitzit, the knotted ritual fringes worn by observant Jews — breaking into the cemetery. They knocked over stone crosses and smashing and stomping on tombstones, leaving a trail of debris and broken headstones.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the attack an “immoral act” and “an affront to religion.” Jerusalem’s Anglican Archbishop Hosam Naoum called it a “clear hate crime.” The authorities sent police officers to the Protestant Cemetery on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion to investigate the profanation.
Mount Zion is sacred to Jews and Muslims and remained at the center of competing religious claims in Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The place is revered as the site of the Last Supper in the Christian tradition. Jesus had shared the place with his disciples the night before his crucifixion.
“Many stone crosses were the targets of the vandals. It clearly indicate the religious bigotry. It urged the authorities to redouble efforts to find the perpetrators.
The Protestant Cemetery was established on the venerated Mount Zion just outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls. It was part of territory that Israel seized in the 1967 Mideast war.
Jewish extremists have defaced church property on Mount Zion in the past years. Jews consider Mount Zion the traditional burial place of the biblical King David. Some ultra-Orthodox and nationalist activists have opposed Christian prayer rights at the site. A Jewish seminary known as the Diaspora Yeshiva has taken over many buildings in the Mount Zion compound.