A Christian representative in Jerusalem has denounced the acquittal of two Jewish youths suspected of vandalizing a famous monastery.
Wadie Abunassar, an adviser to church leaders in the Holy Land, said on Tuesday that an Israeli court’s decision to acquit those suspected of sprawling anti-Christian graffiti on the Dormition Abbey several years ago is “unacceptable.”
He said the outcome is that those who carried out the attack weren’t “brought to justice” and Israeli authorities must find and punish them to deter others.
Israeli prosecutors announced Monday that they would be dropping their case against the two Jewish far-right activists they had indicted on a series of crimes, including membership in a terror organization and vandalizing the monastery.
The prosecution informed the Lod District Court that it did not have enough evidence to prosecute Yinon Reuveni, 23, and a second suspect, 21, whose name has been barred from publication as he was a minor at the time of the incidents for which he had been charged.
In February 2015, officials at the Dormition Abbey found parts of the seminary burned along with Hebrew hate slogans graffitied on the walls. Messages included “death to Christians,” “death to Arabs,” and “Jesus is a monkey.”
The Dormition Abbey, which is located 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 the Old City’s Zion Gate, has been the site of numerous graffiti attacks over the last decade. In 2014, hours after Pope Francis celebrated mass at the Benedictine abbey, where Christians believe the Virgin Mary died, arsonists set fire to the compound, causing minor damage.
It is a popular site for pilgrims and tourists.
The attack came amid a spate of vandalism on Christian targets in recent years by suspected Jewish extremists and terrorists. It was widely condemned by Israeli leaders and others.
Reuveni and the younger suspect were originally arrested in January 2016 as part of the Shin Bet’s broader crackdown against the “terrorist infrastructure” behind the deadly July 2015 firebombing of the Dawabsha family home in the Palestinian village of Duma.
The minor whose confession was thrown out was arrested for the vandalism along with two other suspects: Reuveni, who has since been sentenced to five and a half years in jail for the July 2015 arson attack at the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes in northern Israel; and another unnamed minor who was indicted as an accomplice in the Duma terror attack in 2016.
— Jacob Magid contributed to this report.