Last updated: 1 April, 2014

Jerusalem patriarch condemns Israel convent vandalism

The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem condemned Tuesday an assault by vandals overnight on a Roman Catholic convent, demanding that police catch the perpetrators.

The vandals daubed “Mary is a cow” and “America (is) Nazi Germany” on the walls of the Deir Rafat convent and slashed the tyres of five vehicles parked nearby, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.

Patriarch Fuad Twal, the Holy Land’s senior Roman Catholic prelate, said “we condemn these repeated attacks and expect the police to arrest (those responsible).

“This is not the first time there have been attacks on Christian places of worship and until now we’ve not heard of the trial of anyone involved,” he told AFP at the scene.

The attack, some 30 kilometres (18 miles) west of Jerusalem, also drew condemnation from an interfaith group that represents the main Jewish, Christian and Muslim bodies in the Holy Land.

“The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land expresses its shock and distress on the acts of vandalism and graffiti” at Deir Rafat, a statement said, calling on Israeli authorities “to intensify its efforts” to catch and prosecute those involved.

“The council calls upon people from all faiths to respect all holy places and sites for all three religions, and strongly discourages extremists’ behaviour that exploits or involves religion in a political or territorial dispute.”

Our Lady, Queen of Palestine convent, as it is also known, was founded before the creation of Israel in 1948 and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

The incident there bore the hallmarks of a so-called “price tag” attack — a euphemism for a politically motivated act of vandalism by hardline Jewish settlers.

Although the attacks initially targeted Palestinians and their property, the scope has expanded to include anyone seen as opposed to the settlements.

Over the past few years, churches and Christian graveyards, anti-settlement activists and even, on occasion, the Israeli army have been targeted.

Very few perpetrators have been caught or prosecuted.

Last July, two suspects were arrested on suspicion of a 2012 incident in which vandals torched the door of a Trappist monastery in Latrun, some 10 kilometres (six miles) from Deir Rafat.

They also scrawled “Jesus is a monkey” on a nearby wall, shocking the religious and political establishment.