Israeli settlers vandalise Christian graves in Jerusalem cemetery
Israeli youths vandalised a Christian cemetery in occupied East Jerusalem over the New Year holidays, smashing crosses and knocking down headstones on more than 30 graves.
The assault on the historic Protestant Mount Zion Cemetery happened at around 3.20pm on Sunday and was discovered on Tuesday evening.
Security camera footage showed at least two vandals breaking into the cemetery and smashing crosses, throwing big rocks and pieces of marble onto the graves, and destroying iconography.
The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East said in a statement seen by Middle East Eye that many of the destroyed gravestones belonged to historic figures, including the founder of the Jerusalem University College.
"Among the obliterated tombstones was one containing the bust of the Right Reverend Samuel Gobat, the second Protestant Bishop in Jerusalem and founder of the adjoining Jerusalem University College, formally known as the Gobat School," the statement read.
At least three gravestones belonged to British police officers who died in Palestine during the British Mandate period.
The Israeli police said that the assailants' identity remains unknown and that it has opened an investigation into "the defacement of a large number of tombstones in the Protestant cemetery".
The cemetery is one of Jerusalem's iconic sites. It was established in 1848, adjacent to the Old City on Mount Zion, on a plot owned by the Jerusalem University College, which teaches courses on Christian theology. Christians believe Jesus's Last Supper took place on Mount Zion.
The cemetery has 77 graves of British military personnel and 73 of Palestine Police who fell during the Second World War.
'Many stone crosses were also the targets of the vandals, clearly indicating that these criminal acts were motivated by religious bigotry and hatred against Christians'
- The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission said it was "appalled" by the vandalism, according to the BBC, and that it has begun work to "carry out full repairs".
The Episcopal Church also condemned the attack.
"Many stone crosses were also the targets of the vandals, clearly indicating that these criminal acts were motivated by religious bigotry and hatred against Christians.
"The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem condemns these wanton acts of desecration and calls for the relevant authorities to search for, apprehend, and prosecute the perpetrators of these terroristic crimes to the fullest extent of the law, including those laws pertaining to hate crimes," it said.
Oliver Hersey, president of the Jerusalem University College, said: "The Mount Zion Police Department is working with staff at Jerusalem University College to identify two young men caught on security cameras throwing large pieces of marble crosses at headstones, in an effort to restore peace and safety to those residing in the Mount Zion community."
In recent years, assaults on Christian sites in Jerusalem have prompted church leaders to warn that they feel unsafe under Israeli discrimination.
In December 2021, patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem warned that "Christians have become the target of frequent and sustained attacks by fringe radical groups", referring to Israeli far-right activists.