.- Vandals set fire to the door of the Latroun Monastery near Jerusalem on the morning of Sept. 4 and spray painted the walls with blasphemous phrases in Hebrew.

The monks at the monastery were awakened in the early morning hours and found the front door on fire and their outside wall spray painted with the phrases, “Jesus is a monkey” and “Ramat Migron.” The second phrase was an apparent reference to the illegal Jewish settlement in the Palestinian West Bank, which was dismantled by Israeli authorities on Sunday.

The BBC reported that Israeli police have launched an investigation into the attack on the monastery, which is located in Palestinian territory just 15 kilometers from Jerusalem.  They said the attack may have been committed by pro-settlement Jewish extremists as revenge for the eviction of 300 Israelis from Ramat Migron, which has become a symbol for hard-line groups that oppose any withdrawal from the West Bank.

In a Sept. 4 statement, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said it was “indignant” over the “disgraceful and hideous” attacks which “dishonor Christian sites in Israel and attack the person of Christ, Son of this Holy Land.” The patriarchate oversees all Roman Catholic churches in the Holy Land.

The patriarchate also condemned any attempt to “create divisions between the communities” and called for tolerance and values that “bear witness to human greatness.”

The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land issued its own statement asking, “Why are Christians still in the crosshairs?

“What is happening in Israeli society to the point that Christians are the sacrificial lambs of such violence?” 

“Those who left their hate-filled graffiti expressed outrage at the eviction of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank.  But why are they taking it out on Christians and their places of worship? What kind of scorn for Christians are they teaching in their schools and homes?” the bishops asked.

The attack on the monastery was also condemned by the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

In February of this year, the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem was also vandalized. It is built on the place where, according to tradition, the tree that was used to make Christ’s cross was grown. In that case, vandals painted the words “Death to Christians” on the monastery.

The Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land questioned why “those responsible have not been found and brought to justice.  The time has come for officials to act to put an end to this senseless violence and ensure the teaching of respect in schools.”