Ultra-Orthodox Israelis Attempt to Storm a Church

Source: FSSPX News

St. Elias Monastery at Mount Carmel

In recent weeks, Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups have repeatedly attempted to storm the Melkite Catholic Church and Monastery of St. Elias near the northern Israeli port city of Haifa, prompting Christians to take steps to protect the area.

The repeated attacks at Deir Mar Elias are linked to claims by a group of Israelis who claim, against all likelihood and against history, that the site contains the “tomb of the prophet Elisha.”

The monastery was founded by the Carmelites. The order of Carmel was founded by hermits in the 12th century on the famous mount of the same name. It relates to the prophet Elias. The motto of the Order is: “With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of hosts,” taken from III Kings 19:14. They are words pronounced by the famous prophet.

According to tradition, the prophet's cave is located under the altar of the church. But how did these Jewish groups come to believe that the tomb of the prophet Elisha, a disciple of Elias, is in the monastery? It remains obscure.

After several attempts last week, intruders managed to infiltrate the outer courtyard of the monastery and disrupt the ongoing prayer, causing fear and anger in the Christian community. Haifa Christians then gathered in the courtyard of the monastery to oppose the troublemakers.

To deter any further attacks, the church began erecting an iron fence around the monastery. Wadih Abu Nassar, an adviser to several churches in the Holy Land, commented on the installation of the fence in a post on his Facebook page:

“The fence will help facilitate the filing of complaints against those who try to go over or under the walls of the monastery, and label them as aggressors. It will also make it easier to protect the monastery from attacks.”

Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, recently appointed cardinal by Pope Francis, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, expressed concern that Christians are increasingly being persecuted in the Holy Land. He said the current administration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has created a political climate in which acts of aggression are tolerated.

“The frequency of these attacks, of these assaults, has become something new,” Cardinal Pizzaballa said, La Croix International reported. “These people [the aggressors] feel protected... and the cultural and political atmosphere can now justify, or tolerate, actions against Christians.”

The Islamic-Christian Committee for Jerusalem and its Holy Places also condemned the provocations and underlined its disapproval of the repeated harassment and attacks on Christian holy sites in the area, calling the acts “barbaric.”

The committee said claims about the existence of Jewish graves in churches are used as pretexts to seize holy sites.