Christian cemetery outside Jerusalem vandalized in apparent hate crime

Police probing smashing of 30 headstones at Beit Jamal Monastery’s graveyard, which has been targeted several times in recent years

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Vandalism discovered at a Christian cemetery outside Beit Jamal Monastery on October 17, 2018. (Tag Meir)
Vandalism discovered at a Christian cemetery outside Beit Jamal Monastery on October 17, 2018. (Tag Meir)

Police opened an investigation Wednesday into an apparent hate crime at a Christian cemetery belonging to the Beit Jamal Monastery in Beit Shemesh where some 30 cross headstones were found vandalized.

Monks who visit the graveyard every few days discovered the damage and reported the incident to Israeli authorities.

The Tag Meir anti-racism group released a statement condemning “with disgust the desecration of the Christian cemetery,” saying it joined a string of other apparent hate crimes targeting Palestinians in the West Bank. The NGO called on police to complete their investigations into the matters swiftly.

The same monastery and graveyard outside Jerusalem have fallen victim to similar defacing in recent years.

Vandalism discovered at Christian cemetery outside Beit Jamal Monestary on October 17, 2018. (Tag Meir)

In September 2017, vandals ransacked Beit Jamal, smashing a statue of the Virgin Mary, damaging furniture and breaking a number of the stained-glass windows inside the sanctuary.

In January 2016, dozens of crosses at Beit Jamal’s cemetery were toppled, in the midst of a wave of attacks against Palestinians and Arab Israelis along with their property that were believed to have been carried out by Jewish extremists.

In 2013, suspected Jewish extremists firebombed Beit Jamal and scrawled the phrases “price tag,” “death to the Gentiles,” and “revenge” on the hallways of the monastery.

No arrests were made in any of the cases.

The monastery, situated next to the town of Beit Shemesh some 20 miles (32 kilometers) west of Jerusalem, is known for its good relations with Israelis, who visit to buy its hand-crafted ceramics, honey and olive oil.

The vandalized sanctuary of the Beit Jamal Monastery seen on September 22, 2017. (Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem)

Earlier this week, Palestinians in the central West Bank village of Asira al-Qabaliya reported that 22 vehicles parked in the town had been vandalized in an apparent hate crime they blamed on Israeli settlers. Photos from the village show a number of cars with their tires slashed and others daubed with stars of David as well as Hebrew slogans including “death to murderers” and “Jews wake up.”

Youths from the village hurled stones at an Israel Police convoy when it attempted to enter the village to photograph the damage, the mayor said. A Palestinian team had earlier entered and taken pictures.

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