Jerusalem Christian seminary targeted in apparent hate crime
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Jerusalem Christian seminary targeted in apparent hate crime

Greek Orthodox center torched; graffiti reading ‘Jesus is a son of a whore’ found at the scene; mayor condemns attack

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Police open an investigation into the fire at a Greek Orthodox seminary in Jerusalem on Feb. 26, 2015. Ultra-nationalist and anti-Christian graffiti on the walls leads investigators to suspect the fire may have been a hate crime. (Photo credit: Jerusalem Fire Department)
Police open an investigation into the fire at a Greek Orthodox seminary in Jerusalem on Feb. 26, 2015. Ultra-nationalist and anti-Christian graffiti on the walls leads investigators to suspect the fire may have been a hate crime. (Photo credit: Jerusalem Fire Department)

A fire broke out early Thursday morning in a Greek Orthodox seminary in Jerusalem in what police suspect may be a hate crime. No one was injured.

The fire started at approximately 4 a.m. in the bathrooms of the seminary.

The walls of the building were vandalized with ultra-nationalist and racist graffiti.

“Jesus is a son of a whore” and “Redemption of Zion” were among the slogans painted in the areas surrounding the bathrooms.

Three teams of firefighters were called to the seminary, which is located near the Jaffa Gate of the Old City, and quickly extinguished the flames, preventing it from spreading through the rest of the building.

Emergency personnel searched the area but did not find any suspects at the scene.

Jerusalem police have opened an investigation into the incident as a hate crime.

Mayor Nir Barkat condemned the alleged arson and promised to follow the case as it develops. “There is no room for such deplorable activity in Jerusalem,” he said in a statement. “We must eradicate this behavior and bring those responsible to justice.”

Firefighters extinguish the blaze quickly, preventing the fire from spreading on Feb. 26, 2015. No one was injured. (Photo credit: Jerusalem Fire Department)
Firefighters extinguish the blaze quickly, preventing the fire from spreading on Feb. 26, 2015. No one was injured. (Photo credit: Jerusalem Fire Department)

It was hardly the first case of vandalism against Christian sites.

Two months ago police arrested a 21-year-old Jewish man who had allegedly damaged a cross and sculpture in the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem.

Before Pope Francis arrived in Israel last May, vandals also spray-painted a Catholic church with anti-Christian graffiti.

On Wednesday morning, a mosque in a village near Bethlehem was set alight and anti-Arab graffiti was sprayed on its walls.

Worshipers arriving for prayers at the mosque in Jab’a, which lies to the west of Bethlehem, discovered the fire and quickly put it out. The carpeting inside and the walls of the building were damaged but there were no reports of injuries.

Eyewitnesses said the offensive graffiti, written in Hebrew, called for revenge attacks against Arabs and Muslims.

Local Palestinians believe the arson attack was the work of Jewish settlers.

The Arab Joint List party released a statement condemning both Thursday’s alleged arson and other “price tag” attacks against Christian and Muslim sites. The criminals responsible for these attacks, the party claims, “are being strengthened by the racist and fascist atmosphere sweeping through the Jewish Street, under the auspices of the far-right parties.”

The party added that these actions are inspired by the government “which has implemented clear policies of discrimination, exclusion and oppression.”

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