ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 139

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Vandalism discovered at Maronite Christian community center in north

Recently revamped building in city of Ma’alot-Tarshiha had religious items smashed, equipment broken over Christmas period; Maronite leader says ‘everything is destroyed’

A Maronite Christian center in Ma'alot-Tarshiha was vandalized during the festive period, January 11, 2022. (Michel El Khouri)
A Maronite Christian center in Ma'alot-Tarshiha was vandalized during the festive period, January 11, 2022. (Michel El Khouri)

Members of the Maronite Christian community discovered on Wednesday that their community center had been vandalized by unknown assailants after worshipers returned to the venue following the Christmas period.

The community center, in the northern city of Ma’alot-Tarshiha, which services a Maronite community of 250 people, had Christian images defaced and equipment broken.

“I went there around 6:15 p.m. to prepare for prayers, and I saw that everything was destroyed, a mess, broken. Immediately we called the municipality and the police, who came and took photos and began an investigation,” community spokesperson Rody Elias Noura told The Times of Israel.

He said that the vandalism was only discovered on Wednesday due to the Christmas period, during which members of the congregation departed for two weeks to join their fellow Maronite Christian communities elsewhere.

Noura said he did not know who could be behind the attack on the recently redecorated community center.

“There is no person that we argued with, we didn’t disturb anyone and no one disturbed us,” he said, adding that “it just suddenly happened… everything is destroyed.”

The word ‘revenge’ is graffitied in Hebrew on a wall in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, January 11, 2022. (Armenian Patriarchate)

In a statement, the Maronite Archbishopric of the Holy Land condemned the “acts of destruction and all forms of physical and verbal aggression against any person, property, religion or belief.”

“Especially when such attacks on human freedom are aimed at groups that seek to build a healthy society and pass on good values for future generations,” the statement concluded.

In a separate incident, Jerusalem’s Armenian community was also targeted by vandals on Wednesday, with multiple discriminatory phrases graffitied on the exterior of buildings in the Old City’s Armenian Quarter.

According to the Armenian Patriarchate, “revenge,” “death to Christians,” “death to Arabs and gentiles” and “death to Armenians” were all graffitied in the quarter.

Last week, two teens were arrested after an attack on a Christian cemetery in Jerusalem that resulted in damage to roughly 30 graves.

Damaged tombstones at the Protestant Mount Zion Cemetery, in Jerusalem, January 3, 2022. (Israel Police)

The announcement of the arrest came following international condemnation of the vandalism, including from the US.

Widely shared security camera footage showed two young men — both wearing Jewish skullcaps and tzitzit, the knotted ritual fringes worn by observant Jews — breaking into the cemetery, knocking over stone crosses and smashing and stomping on tombstones, leaving a trail of debris and broken headstones.

In December 2021, Christian leaders in the Holy Land warned that their communities are under threat of being driven from the region by extremist Israeli radical groups, and called for dialogue on preserving their presence.

Extremist Jewish activists have for years carried out vandalism against Christian sites in Jerusalem and other areas of Israel, including hate graffiti and arson. The extremists also target Palestinians.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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