In his annual Christmas message, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to protect Christians, Christian places of worship and their historical holy sites in Israel.
“Israel is proud of its record of religious tolerance and pluralism, and Israel will continue to protect freedom of religion for all,” PM Netanyahu said in his message released on Christmas Eve. “And we will continue to safeguard places of Christian worship throughout our country. We will not tolerate any acts of violence or discrimination against any place of worship. This is not our way, and this is something we cannot accept.”
According to the Jewish Telegraph Agency, five so-called “price tag” attacks on Christian sites took place in 2012.
Price-tagging “refers to the strategy that Jewish extremists have adopted to exact a price in attacks on Palestinians and Arabs in retribution for settlement freezes and demolitions, or for Palestinian attacks on Jews, but appeared to extend this year to Christian sites as well,” the news agency notes.
The latest price tag incident occurred on December 12, when more than 70 Israeli settlers targeted the Greek Orthodox Church Monastery of the Cross and the Armenian cemetery in Jerusalem. Tires were slashed, Christian graves were desecrated, and graffiti reading “Happy Hanukkah,” “Price Tag,” and “Jesus was a bastard” was spray-painted on the church walls.
The attack follows an incident on the same day when Jewish settlers broke into the Al-Aqsa mosque and performed Talmudic rituals in the Muslim temple; racist graffiti was also spray-painted on the walls. Police believe the two attacks were carried out by the same group.
“Today, Christian communities throughout the Middle East are shrinking, and many of them are endangered. This is, of course, not true in Israel. Here there is a strong and growing Christian community that participates fully in the life of our country,” Netanyahu said.