JERUSALEM — Catholic leaders in Jerusalem are increasingly concerned that an apparent uptick in nationalistic hate crimes by Jewish extremists against Christians and Muslims could mar the upcoming visit of Pope Francis.
On Friday, for the second time this week, anti-Christian graffiti was discovered on a church in Jerusalem. It follows a similar incident Monday at the Notre Dame Center, a complex in Jerusalem owned by the Vatican. The defacements come after more than 20 major hate crimes in the past few months have targeted Christian and Muslim communities here.
While such crimes are not unusual — a monitoring group found that 32 religious buildings have been vandalized or subjected to arson attempts in the past four years — the frequency of such incidents appears to have increased in recent weeks.
When they first started in 2011, these so-called “price tag” attacks were part of a campaign to extract retribution for actions against Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The idea was that anytime the Israeli army removed an illegal outpost or Palestinian militants attacked settlers, somebody would pay a price. Today, these attacks have spread into Israel proper and don’t always follow actions against Jewish settlements.
“We are very concerned about the repeated acts of hatred against Christians by the price-tag groups,” the Rev. Jamal Khader, rector of Latin Patriarchate Seminary, said Friday.