[VIDEO] Outcry over footage of men smashing cross at Jerusalem cemetery

Oliver Holmes

The Guardian  /  January 5, 2023

Vandals’ clothing leads to claims they are Jewish extremists who have desecrated over 30 Christian graves.

Security camera footage of men wearing Jewish religious clothing smashing a stone cross in a historic Jerusalem cemetery has prompted claims that Israeli extremists are responsible for the desecration of more than 30 Christian graves.

VIDEO :  Outcry over footage of men smashing cross at Jerusalem cemetery | Israel | The Guardian

The vandalism at the Protestant cemetery on Mount Zion, conducted in broad daylight on Sunday afternoon, has shocked church leaders and led to calls for Israel to crack down on racist far-right settlers.

Nir Hasson, a reporter from the Israeli newspaper Haaretztweeted the footage, saying it showed “two Jews vandalizing graves”. The CCTV video showed two young men wearing kippas on their heads and knotted tzitzit tassels on their clothes – items worn by some religious Jews.

WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency, posted the same video, blaming the attack on “Jewish extremists”.

Israeli police said they were investigating the attack but they have not confirmed any arrests. Israel’s foreign ministry called the attack an “immoral act” and “an affront to religion”.

The cemetery was established in 1848 just outside the ancient walled city of Jerusalem, the western side of Mount Zion. It holds the graves of prominent clergy and was later used as a burial site for British soldiers and Palestinian police officers, some of whose headstones were destroyed on Sunday.

The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said the attack was “a blasphemous act”, and the UK’s chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, said it was “shameful vandalism”.

The British consulate in Jerusalem said it was “the latest in a string of attacks against Christians and their property in and around the Old City”.

In 2021, Christian leaders in the Holy Land wrote in a joint letter that Arab Christian communities were under threat of being driven from the region by extremist Israeli radical groups.

Israel has long been called on to do more to prevent attacks by hardline settlers. Its new government, however, includes several far-right members from the settler movement.

One new member, Itamar Ben-Gvir, is a former lawyer who defended Israelis accused of religiously motivated attacks. Ben-Gvir now oversees the Israeli police as national security minister.

Oliver Holmes is a Guardian journalist; he was previously Jerusalem correspondent and has reported across the Middle East and Asia


Israel police arrest 2 teens in attack on Christian cemetery

AP  /  January 6, 2023

JERUSALEM — The Israeli police on Friday arrested two teenagers who they said vandalized over two dozen Christian graves in a historic Jerusalem cemetery earlier this week.

The graves of Christian figures at the Protestant Cemetery on Jerusalem’s venerated Mount Zion were found pushed over and pulled from their foundations on Sunday, unsettling the contested city’s Christian minority and drawing worldwide condemnation. The cemetery is more than 170 years old and houses prominent members of the armed forces and clergy in the holy city.

Late Thursday, the U.S. Embassy’s Office of Palestinian Affairs said it was “concerned” that the religious site was targeted again — the second time in a decade.

“Religious site vandalism by anyone is unacceptable,” the office said. “Jerusalem must be a city for all of its people.”

Israeli police did not name the suspected vandals but said they were ages 18 and 14 and residents of central Israel. Security camera footage of the attack showed two young men wearing a kippa, a Jewish skullcap, and tzitzit, the knotted ritual fringes worn by observant Jews, knocking over crosses, breaking tombstones and throwing debris over the graves.

“Any damage to religious institutions and sites is serious and harms the unique and delicate fabric of life that exists in the city,” the police said, describing the act as “intentional vandalism.” A Jerusalem court on Friday held a hearing to extend the detention of the two teenagers.

The Anglican Church in Jerusalem has denounced the desecration as the latest hate crime targeting the Christian community in Jerusalem amid the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.