The President of Israel is campaigning to raise public awareness about the increasing threat to the safety of the nation’s Christians. President Isaac Herzog recently visited the Stella Maris Monastery in Haifa where an Orthodox Jewish group has been trying to break into the Catholic compound.
Members of the Breslov Hasidic sect believe the prophet Elisha is buried in the grounds on Mount Carmel – a claim the church denies. The Times of Israel reports that’s sparked several clashes between Jews and mostly Arab Christians.
President Herzog said: “In recent months, we have witnessed extremely serious phenomena in the treatment of members of Christian communities in the Holy Land, our brothers and sisters, Christian citizens, who feel attacked in their places of prayer and their cemeteries, on the street. It is entirely unacceptable in every way.” He asserted Israelis “must uproot this phenomenon from its roots.”
Israel’s police commissioner Kobi Shabtai joined the president at the monastery, vowing to ensure the security of Christians. He said the police “are undertaking creative operations to eradicate all these small phenomena, these phenomena that affect how everyone feels. We are here to give you a feeling of security.”
According to police, 16 investigations have been opened this year, and 21 arrests and detentions have been carried out in connection with attacks on Christians. Last week Jerusalem District Police Commander Doron Turgeman and Old City Precinct Commander Avi Cohen met Christian leaders to show them the steps the police are taking to counter attacks on clergy in the Old City. They include instructing officers “to focus overt and covert operational activity against anyone who commits hate crimes, vandalism and violence of any kind against religious institutions and Christian clerics, including in the Old City of Jerusalem.”
Last month President Herzog first came out forcefully in public against the growing attacks against Christians in Israel, particularly in Jerusalem, calling them “a true disgrace” and adding: “I utterly condemn violence, in all its forms, directed by a small and extreme group, towards the holy places of the Christian faith, and against Christian clergy in Israel. This includes spitting, and the desecration of graves and churches.”