The Jerusalem District Court on Sunday indicted three Jewish teens for allegedly vandalizing a Jerusalem church with anti-Christian graffiti earlier this month.
The three — aged 16 and 15 — were charged with religiously motivated destruction of property for the vandalism incident, overnight on January 16, which included the phrases “Christians to Hell,” and “Death to the heathen Christians, the enemies of Israel,” daubed on the walls of the Dormition Abbey.
The names of the suspects remain under gag order, due to their age.
Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli lawmakers condemned the incident, a spokesperson for the local Catholic Church denounced the lack of measures taken by authorities to stop the increasing number of hate crimes against Christians and churches in Israel in recent years.
“Despite promises by the government, these incidents continue to take place,” Wadia Abu Nasser, the executive director of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops in the Holy Land, said at the time. “If we were to actually count all these incidents, they’d be in the hundreds.
“We have limited resources at our disposal. It’s the state’s responsibility to not only apprehend these perpetrators, but to make the necessary changes in the education system to educate against this sort of thing,” he told Army Radio.
Nasser also called on rabbis to speak out against the recurring hate crimes. “It’s time they stopped hiding behind politics,” he said.
The Dormition Abbey, which is located right next to the Cenacle — a compound that Jews revere as the site of King David’s Tomb, and Christians as the room of the Last Supper — outside Zion Gate, was the site of graffiti attacks in 2012 and 2013. In 2014, hours after Pope Francis celebrated mass at the abbey, arsonists set fire to the compound, causing minor damage to its structure.
In recent years, Israeli nationalist vandals have targeted mosques and churches, in addition to Palestinian private property, on dozens of occasions — including the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, in northern Israel, which was badly damaged by arson in 2015.