Price-tag vandals hit J'lem church, Palestinian town
PHOTO: MELANIE LIDMAN
“Price-tag” vandals targeted sites in Jerusalem and near Ramallah overnight Tuesday, spraying extremist graffiti and puncturing car tires.
The words “tag mahir” – “price tag” – have become affiliated with the extreme fringe of the settlement and right-wing movements.
For the second time in less than a year, vandals targeted the Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park.
This time, the vandals wrote: “Happy Hanukka, the Maccabees will succeed” on a stone wall surrounding the structure. They also spraypainted graffiti on a car with the words “Jesus is a bastard,” “price-tag,” and “Happy Hanukka.”
They vandals slashed the tires of three cars.
In the second incident, which took place in Shukba, 18 km. northwest of Ramallah, unidentified persons set a car on fire and spray-painted the words “price-tag” nearby, Judea and Samaria Police reported on Wednesday morning.
Police opened an investigation, but have yet to make any arrests.
Father Claudio, the superior of the monastery, said he discovered the graffiti on Wednesday morning after morning prayers. “I forgave them the first time, I will forgive them the second time. I will forgive them the seventh, and 75th times, the 77th time I forgive,” he said.
“This person needs to write outside. Okay. But he needs to come inside the Monastery. Sit with me, drink one coffee, and I will explain to him why I believe in Jesus and why that is my freedom [to believe],” Father Claudio said. “He needs to come face to face. And I will tell him, ‘Welcome.’ Or with me, or with another priest. Let’s sit, and speak. This is the heart of the religions... I say to these people, ‘Hanukka Sameach’ [‘Happy Hanukka’].”
Father Claudio added that he understands that 99 percent of Israelis support his church, and only 1 percent is responsible for the extremism and hatred.
“This is terrorism. It is terror against Christians,” said Maroun Reem, who lives in the monastery. The tires of her car were slashed, the same car that had graffiti spray-painted in the previous price-tag attack on February 7. Then, the vandals wrote: “Jesus, drop dead,” “Death to Christians” and “Kahane was right.” They called themselves “The Maccabees of Migron [an outpost in the Binyamin region]” and also left the words “price tag.”
“They did it because I have a cross in my car,” she said.
“This does a lot of damage to the country.”
This is the fifth price-tag attack against a Christian site this year, including the previous vandalism at the Valley of the Cross Monastery, and at the Latrun Monastery, the Baptist Church in west Jerusalem, and the Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion.
Police have arrested six people – three adults and three minors – in connection with price tag incidents over the past three months. Only two of the suspects were arrested in connection with an attack against Christian holy sites, in connection with the vandalism at the Dormition Abbey’s Franciscan Convent in October.
National Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said officers were alerted to the incident at the Monastery of the Cross early on Wednesday morning.
They had no leads but the investigation was continuing, and may be transferred to a special unit established last year that looks into price-tag attacks, he said.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called the two price-tag attacks “revolting.”
“The Jewish values according to which we were raised and according to which we raise our children reject outright such behavior. Freedom of worship for all religions will be upheld in Israel and we will bring to justice these contemptible beings who perpetrated this crime,” Netanyahu said.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat also condemned the vandalism.
“We cannot accept this disgusting and extremist phenomenon, whose only goal is to damage the coexistence in Jerusalem. We must tear this up from the roots,” Barkat said.
In response to the price-tag attacks, activists from the Bright Tag anti-racism coalition held a candle-lighting ceremony in the Valley of the Cross, near the monastery, for the fifth night of Hanukka with local rabbis and Greek monks.
“Law enforcement agencies in Israel do not take sufficient action to end these violent acts, thus encouraging the Jewish terrorism,” Bright Tag founder Dr. Gadi Gvaryahu said ahead of the candle-lighting.
He blamed extreme-right rabbis, websites, and politicians, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, for encouraging acts of violence against Arab and Christian sites.
The Monastery of the Cross is an Orthodox Christian monastery built around the 11th century on the spot where Christians believes the tree grew that was used to make Jesus’s cross. The monastery has roots in Georgian and Greek Orthodoxy and flies a Greek flag above the fortress-like building, which could be one of the reasons it was targeted. During Hanukka, Jews commemorate a secondcentury BCE victory over Syrian- Greek oppressors.
Ben Hartman and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.