More than 30 graves at a historic Christian cemetery in Jerusalem were found toppled and vandalized, the diocese said Wednesday, jolting the Christian minority in the contested city.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the attack an “immoral act” and “an affront to religion.” Jerusalem’s Anglican Archbishop Hosam Naoum called it a “clear hate crime.” The British consulate said it was just the latest in a string of assaults on the Christian community in the holy city of Jerusalem.
Police officers were sent to the Protestant Cemetery on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion to investigate the profanation. Mount Zion, associated in Christian tradition with the site of the Last Supper that Jesus shared with his disciples the night before his crucifixion, is also sacred to Jews and Muslims and has been at the center of competing religious claims throughout the decadeslong Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Widely shared security camera footage on Sunday showed two young men — both wearing a Jewish skullcap and tzitzit, the knotted ritual fringes worn by observant Jews — breaking into the cemetery, knocking over stone crosses and smashing and stomping on tombstones, leaving a trail of debris and broken headstones.
Among the destroyed tombs was one containing a 19th century bust of Samuel Gobat, the second Protestant Bishop in Jerusalem who died in 1879, the Episcopal diocese said. The graves of three police officers, British citizens serving in the police force of what was then British-ruled Palestine, were also vandalized.
The diocese cautioned that the desecration of the cemetery should be seen as an ominous warning about “hatred against Christians.”
“Many stone crosses were the targets of the vandals, clearly indicating that these criminal acts were motivated by religious bigotry,” it said, urging authorities to redouble efforts to find the perpetrators.