Israeli settlers and military have stormed a church in Hebron City, chanting slogans and singing before holding their own prayers inside the church.
The desecration came at the al-Maskobiyya Church in Hebron City, also known as Abraham’s/Ibrahim’s Oak Holy Trinity Monastery or simply the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, a Russian Orthodox Church and monastery.
Dozens of settlers entered the church under the protection of the Israeli military, with even a helicopter dispatched to offer cover for the action on Monday evening which was undertaken in an area entirely under Palestinian control.
The site of the monastery marks the near-by location of the famed Oak of Mamre, an ancient tree which traditionally is where Abraham entertained the three angels or where he pitched his tent. The 5,000-year-old tree was once a major site of pilgrimage for Russians and is the only functioning Christian shrine in Hebron, despite the death of the tree in 1996.
The attack is the latest in a series of violent incidents and invasions on non-Jewish religious properties by the increasingly fanatical and right-wing settler communities in the West Bank and Israel, the so-called “price tag” attacks involving frequent vandalism and other hate crimes carried out by the fanatics in retaliation for criticism of the settler communities.
Earlier this year in March, the Islamic-Christian Committee for Protecting Jerusalem and Holy Sites condemned a decision by an Israeli court to withdraw the indictments against two extremists accused of committing arson against Christian churches in 2015 and 2016. The Committee said that the decision was a “clear and official encouragement of attacking holy sites and Christian worship houses across the Palestinian territories.”
The Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and all Palestine, Theophilos III has condemned the repeated attacks on both Christian and Muslim holy places in the Palestinian Territories, saying that Christians represented an “integral part” of the Holy Land and that “Criminals will not intimidate this church or its flock.”
“The targeting of churches and mosques is caused by pervasive racism and hatred”Theophilos III
Christians who have been victims of such attacks believe that the Israeli government is doing little to offer them protection and prevent further desecrations.
“Harassment and harming of places that are holy to Islam and Christianity have become almost constant, and no one is held accountable. [The Israeli government is] leading the hatred and approving, with a wink, the continuation of the hate crimes against the Arab minority in the state”Ayman Odeh, Arab-Israeli member of the Knesset