Two Israeli Jews attacked a Sunday Mass on March 19, 2023, celebrated in the church known as the Tomb of the Virgin Mary, in East Jerusalem, a sanctuary entrusted to the guard of the Orthodox. Violent actions perpetrated by radical Jewish groups against Christians continue to increase as the Easter holidays approach.
“It is now clear that the Christian presence in the Holy Land is in great danger. It was with these words that the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem reacted on March 19 to the attack on the Church of the Tomb of the Virgin, one of the most important Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.
Located in East Jerusalem, at the foot of the Mount of Olives, this sanctuary is considered by Eastern Christians to be the place of the Dormition of the Mother of God. It is placed under the joint jurisdiction of the Armenian Orthodox and the Greek Orthodox. The attack took place during the celebration of Mass on the fourth Sunday of Lent.
According to the testimony of a shopkeeper present on the spot, the attack was allegedly committed by two people, one wearing a yarmulke, and the other “trousers with fringes hanging down the sides,” a clear reference to the “tzitzit” worn by pious Jews. For their part, the police only mention one attacker and claim that there were no injuries.
A version that has been denied by the witnesses of the facts and the patriarchate who confirm that the celebrant, Archbishop Joachim’s face was injured, as well as another priest, by two attackers, one uttering insults, the other armed with an iron bar.
Police only arrived at the scene half an hour later and were only able to arrest one of the two assailants.
“Attacks by radical Israeli groups targeting Christian churches, cemeteries, and properties, in addition to physical and verbal assaults on Christian clergy, have become almost daily and their intensity is evidently increasing as Christian holidays approach,” worries the patriarchy.
In their statement, the Orthodox authorities call on the international community “to intervene immediately to ensure the security and protection of Christians in Jerusalem and to support the Hashemite Kingdom [Jordan] whose function is to protect the holy places, including the Church of Holy Sepulcher, which have been victims of violations and attacks by radical Israeli organizations.”
The proximity of the Easter celebrations makes the Christians of the Holy City fear the worst.
They remember that last January, a Protestant cemetery in Jerusalem - belonging to the Episcopalians - was desecrated, and the following February, a statue of Christ was vandalized in a chapel belonging to the Catholic Franciscans of the old Town. In all cases, the alleged perpetrators belonged to the fundamentalist Jewish movement.