The Rumanian Orthodox Church on Hahoma Hashlishit street in Jerusalem was defaced overnight Thursday-Friday, in yet another suspected “price tag” hate crime attack, police said Friday, in the latest incident in a wave of both anti-Christian and anti-Arab graffiti and vandalism that has swept the country in recent weeks.
The words “price tag,” “Jesus is garbage” and “King David for the Jews,” were found spray-painted on the site’s walls.
Church members returned from a trip to Ben Gurion Airport around 1 a.m. to find the graffiti written on the side of the St. George’s church facing Hahoma Hashlishit street, a Rumanian nun who preferred anonymity said.
She added that relations with their neighbors in the predominantly ultra-Orthodox neighborhood were usually good. Alongside the Rumanian church are also a small community of Polish Catholic and Armenian Christians.
“It is an act of extremists,” the nun said.
The offensive graffiti was covered up shortly after the discovery.
Two years ago, in October 2012, the Rumanian Orthodox building was attacked in a similar fashion, prompting condemnation from Foreign Minister Avidgor Liberman.
On another street in Jerusalem, “Death to Arabs” graffiti was found written in a marker on an electrical box, Israel Radio reported Friday
An investigation was opened into the incidents, according to police, and units were searching for suspects.
“Price tag” refers to vandalism and other hate crimes usually carried out by Jewish ultra-nationalists in retaliation for government policies against the settler movement. Mosques, churches, dovish Israeli groups and even Israeli military bases have been targeted by nationalist vandals in recent years. The acts have been condemned by Israeli leaders across the political spectrum.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni on Friday morning blasted the recent spate of attacks, saying: “There is a hardcore, ideological group, based in Judea and Samaria, in certain settlements, who want to prevent us from living here in any reasonable way.”
Earlier this week, Livni and other senior lawmakers convened an emergency meeting on price tag vandalism, following the arrests of a female settler from Yitzhar for debating the legality of killing soldiers under Jewish law in a local email list, and after a 25-year-old Yokne’am resident was caught red-handed slashing tires.
Livni, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri and police, IDF, and Shin Bet officials attended the discussion on combating the wave of violence and extremism.
“As justice minister, in the meeting I will have today with the public security minister on the price tag crimes, we will ensure that the violence against the law and against the IDF will be dealt with forcefully and severely,” Livni wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday morning in response to the arrest in Yitzhar.
“What began as the love of the land turned into a Wild West sown with hatred against the Arabs and against the rule of law and its representatives, and it doesn’t matter what they’re wearing: a judge’s robes, a police uniform, or an IDF uniform,” she wrote.
On Thursday, vehicles and a dumpster in the central Israeli town of Lod were found to have been spray-painted with swastikas.
Police said they were opening an investigation into the Lod incident. According to a law enforcement source cited by the Walla website, authorities believe that the swastikas may have been painted as a prank by a group of children, but gave no further details.
On Wednesday, police said they were investigating an act of racist vandalism in the city of Yokne’am after a Druze dentist reported that the walls of his office had been spray-painted with racist slogans.
The graffiti read “Death to Arabs” and “price tag.” The police did not initially identify any suspects.
It was the second attack in three weeks targeting the office of Dr. Khatem Hatar, who hails from the Mas’ade village in the Golan Heights. In the previous incident, vandals spray-painted the words “price tag” and a Star of David on the walls. Police have not made any arrests or identified any suspects in connection with the first attack.
Also on Wednesday, the Roman Catholic Church demanded Israeli action after suspected Jewish extremists daubed hate graffiti on Vatican-owned offices in East Jerusalem just two weeks before a papal visit.
Hebrew-language graffiti, reading “Death to Arabs and Christians and those who hate Israel,” was daubed over offices of the Assembly of Bishops at the Notre Dame center, a Vatican-owned complex opposite the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, on Monday, the Roman Catholic Church said.
On Tuesday, the gravesite of a 2nd-century rabbi was vandalized in northern Israel with swastikas spray-painted onto its dome, police said, in an apparent reprisal for recent hate crimes against Muslim places of worship.
The words “Tag will pay a price” were found on the defaced grace of Rabbi Abba Halafta, seemingly in reference to the perpetrators of recent price tag attacks against Muslims in the north.
On Saturday, a memorial garden for 16 soldiers at a high school in Beersheba was vandalized ahead of Israel’s Memorial Day. Police were investigating the incident.
AFP contributed to this report.