Members of the Christian community request prayer in response to growing concerns about opposition from ultra-nationalist elements in Israel. Two weeks ago Israeli president Herzog acknowledged attacks against Christians are on the rise in Israel. Referring to these actions as “evil” and a “disgrace,” he promised to “put an end to this phenomenon.”
Sustained attacks against the New Polish House in Mea Shearim, Jerusalem, have been reported. According to Franciscan priest Jerzy Kraj, stones, eggs, and rotten fruit were regularly thrown into the courtyard and, most recently, on 15 July, young aggressors broke into the sisters’ private property at night, smashed pots and damaged the front door. The Polish diplomatic mission issued a statement: “Poland expresses deep concern over the recurring physical attacks on pilgrims and members of the Polish Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Elizabeth (New Polish House) in Jerusalem. We hope that the Israeli authorities will respond appropriately.” Four suspects were arrested later that evening and two men aged 18 and 24 were charged. The Polish Foreign Ministry thanked the Israeli authorities for their prompt intervention.
On 23 July several dozen Jewish extremists of the Breslov Hasidic community were transported by bus in the early hours of the morning to Stella Maris (Mar Elias) Catholic church in Haifa. The Jews proceeded to pray and maintain claims – incorrectly – that the church houses the tomb of Elisha (although the church is named for Elijah). Local Christians fear that this claim is being used as a pretext to establish Jewish rights over the church property. Wadie Abunessar, adviser to various churches of the Holy Land, reports that in the previous two months, there have been eight such visits with numbers of participants growing each time. Christian youth in the area contacted the police who removed the extremists.
In a video that gained international attention, the abbot of the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem, Nikodemus Schnabel, was seen escorting the German federal minister of Education by the Western Wall when he was asked by an Israeli official to hide the cross he was wearing. The official is heard saying that the cross is “really big and inappropriate for this place. It’s a Jewish place, you need to respect that.”
Please pray that:
- God will strengthen and encourage the Christian communities in Israel and that the church leaders will be able to respond wisely and appropriately to opposition,
- Jewish ultra-nationalists will recognise the right of others with different beliefs and religious identities to co-exist peacefully,
- The Israeli authorities will show determination in addressing the root causes of anti-Christian sentiments and be diligent in apprehending those guilty of criminal actions.