Jerusalem (Monday, January 11, 2016, Gaudium Press) – The cemetery adjacent to the Salesian monastery in Beit Gemal, in the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem, was desecrated and the wooden and concrete crosses placed on many tombs were destroyed. The incident dates back to mid-December, but has only emerged in recent days. Local police have opened an investigation against unknown persons, but nobody has filed complaints against individuals or specific groups for the act of vandalism.
In the night between March 31 and April 1 of 2014, always in the area of Beit Shemesh, unknown vandals had written blasphemous sentences on the walls of two houses belonging to the Latin Catholic monastery of Deir Rafat (see Fides 01/04/2014). The nuns of the monastery, belonging to the Monastic Family of Bethlehem, of the Virgin Mary and Saint Bruno had on that occasion reported to Agenzia Fides that among the writings in Hebrew, some expressed “blasphemous sentences against Jesus and the Virgin Mary”. Other writtings called for “revenge” and accused Germany and the United States of “Nazism”. Even some cars parked in the area had been vandalized.
Vandalism suffered by the monastery of Deir Rafat was part of the series of acts of intimidation committed against the Christian monasteries as of February 2012. Since then, extremist groups close to the settler movement have led attacks against places of worship – churches and mosques – frequented by the Arab population.
Salesian fathers responsible for the monastery in Beit Jamal reported that unknown persons desecrated their monastery’s cemetery,” the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal said in a statement. “The fathers reported also that tens of crosses were destroyed at their cemetery,” it said, condemning the attack which apparently took place in December. The patriarchate urged “the police… and the Israeli authorities in general to invest every possible effort” to bring to justice those responsible for this and past desecrations. “We do hope that more efforts be made to educate all inhabitants of the country to respect each other despite their different religious backgrounds,” said the English language statement.
Beit-Gemal (or Jamal) is a Monastery, located south of Beth-Shemesh, just outside Jerusalem. One of its churches is built over the ruins of a Byzantine church, where the tombs of St. Stephen, Rabbi Gamaliel the Elder and others were discovered during the Byzantine period. The church, St. Stephen’s, is named after the first Christian martyr who was stoned to death in Jerusalem in 34-35AD (Acts 6-7) and was buried in the village of Kefar Gamala. The property was purchased in 1892 by the Salesians.
Source Agenzia Fides