JERUSALEM — More than 30 graves at a historic Christian cemetery in Jerusalem have been found overthrown and vandalized, the diocese said on Wednesday, shaking the minority Christian community in the disputed city. .
Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the attack an “immoral act” and “an insult to religion.” The British consulate said it was just the latest in a series of attacks targeting the Christian community in the holy city of Jerusalem.
Police officers were sent to Jerusalem’s Mount Zion Protestant Cemetery to investigate the offense. Mount Zion, in Christian tradition, associated with the site of the Last Supper that Jesus shared with his disciples the night before his crucifixion, is also sacred to Jews and Muslims and was at the center of religious disputes during the decades-long conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Security camera footage widely shared on Sunday showed two young men – both wearing Jewish skullcaps and tzitzit, knotted ceremonial tassels worn by astute Jews – breaking in into cemeteries, knocking over stone crosses, smashing and stomping on tombstones, leaving traces of debris and broken tombstones.
Among the destroyed tombs was a tomb containing a 19th-century bust of Samuel Gobat, the second Protestant Bishop of Jerusalem, who died in 1879, the diocese of Episcopal said. The graves of three police officers, British nationals serving in the British-ruled Palestinian police force, were also vandalized.
The diocese warned that the desecration of the cemetery should be seen as an ominous warning of “hate against Christians.”
“Many stone crosses are the target of vandals, making it clear that these criminal acts are motivated by religious bigotry,” it said, calling on the authorities. double the effort to find the culprit.
The revered Protestant cemetery on Mount Zion just outside the Old City walls of Jerusalem was founded in 1848 and is part of the territory Israel captured during the 1967 Middle East war. The cemetery contains the graves of Dozens of Palestinian police officers were killed during the First and Second World Wars as well as Christian leaders who died in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Radical Jews have vandalized church property on Mount Zion over the years. Jews consider Mount Zion to be the traditional burial site of the Biblical King David, and some ultra-Orthodox and nationalist activists have opposed the Christian right to pray at the site. A Jewish seminary known as Diaspora Yeshiva took over many of the buildings in the Mount Zion complex.
About 16,000 Christians live in Jerusalem, the majority of whom are Palestinian. Israel claims Jerusalem as its eternal capital, while the Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital for the independent state they hope for.
This story has been clarified to show that the three police officers whose graves were also vandalized were British citizens in the police force of then British-ruled Palestine.