Israeli settlers burn church in Jerusalem
A hundred year old church was burned Friday by right-wing Israeli settlers, who broke a number of windows of the church and hurled Molotov cocktails inside.
The damage to the church was substantial, with burn damage throughout the first floor of the building.
The church was built in Jerusalem in 1897, and housed the Palestinian Bible College until 1947, when parishioners were pushed out by armed Jewish gangs during the violence accompanying the creation of the state of Israel.
Christians make up 2% of the population of both Israel and the Palestinian Territories – the number used to be around 15%, but many Christians from the Holy Land have emigrated due to the harsh conditions of the Israeli occupation, and discrimination against them by the Israeli state.
This is not the first time that Israeli right-wingers have destroyed churches and church property – a number of Christian churches were destroyed during the second initfada (uprising) that began in 2000, and many more were destroyed by Israeli forces during the 1948 and 67 wars.
In 2006, an Israeli couple tried to firebomb an ancient church in Nazareth, the city where Christians believe that Jesus Christ lived 2000 years ago. An Israeli court which tried the case failed to convict the couple of any charges.
A leader in the church attacked on Friday, Zachariah al-Mashriqi, told reporters that the attack on the church was a clear attempt to provoke Palestinians to respond in anger. He urged Palestinian Christians to respond to the attack with virtue and patience.
Al-Mashriqi urged the Israeli government to act responsibly and condemn the attack, and work on investigating the attack to find out who was involved and actually file charges in the case. He asked the Israeli government to protect holy sites in the city of Jerusalem, as these sites come under increasing attack by Israeli settlers.