On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, Jewish extremists vandalized a church in the Beit Jamal Monastery near Beit Shemesh. The perpetrators broke a statue of the Virgin Mary and smashed stained-glass windows. This was the third time in the past five years that the monastery was targeted in apparent hate crimes.
On Sunday a delegation from NIF grantee Tag Meir visited the church to show solidarity with the monks, to stand up for Israel as a pluralistic society that does not condone attacks on minorities, and to draw the attention of the media and politicians to the need for law enforcement to address such crimes.
Information provided by the Ministry of Public Security shows that since 2009, 53 investigations have been opened into arson or other vandalism targeting Muslim and Christian holy sites. But only a small percentage of these cases ended in convictions.
These numbers are a cause for concern. At the same time, Tag Meir founder, Gadi Gvaryahu, has seen how public pressure has compelled the Israeli government to take on the extremists behind these attacks in the past. He recalls that after the Church of the Loaves and Fishes in the Galilee – one of the holiest sites for Christians – was vandalized, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided that the perpetrators must be caught. They were apprehended in a matter of weeks.
The data from the Public Security Ministry shows that price tag attacks peaked in 2013.
Tag Meir (Hebrew for “Light Tag”) was founded in 2011 in response to the Tag Mechir (translated as “Price Tag”) campaign by Jewish extremists, who target Arab families, the IDF, and Muslim and Christian holy sites. Tag Meir frequently visits with victims of hate crimes, be they Jewish or Arab, and engages in education and legal action to uphold democratic and Jewish values.
Photo Credit: Yossi Zamir Photography