Vandals wrote anti-Christian slogans, such as "Death to the heathen Christians the enemies of Israel," on the walls and doors of a famous, landmark Jerusalem church. Israeli police discovered the Hebrew graffiti Sunday, in what appears as the latest vandalism attack by extremist Jews.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri told the Associated Press anti-Christian slogans were found on the outer walls of the Dormition Abbey, a Benedictine monastery located outside Jerusalem's Old City and where Christian tradition says the Virgin Mary died, or "fell into eternal sleep." The Abbey's Latin name is "Dormition Sanctae Mariae" (Sleep of St. Mary).
The graffiti included threats of violence and messages degrading Jesus, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.
Dormition Abbey spokesman Nikodemus Schnabel said the graffiti bore what he and others believed to be "very radical messages."
Some of the other anti-Christian slogans the vandals wrote on the edifice's walls and doors using red and black markers included: "Christians to Hell," and "May his name be obliterated" (a supposed Hebrew acronym of Jesus' name in Hebrew), reports Haaretz.
Police who are investigating the incident indicate suspicion immediately fell on Jewish extremists who have for years vandalized Palestinian property, as well as mosques, churches, the offices of dovish Israeli groups and even Israeli military bases.
The so-called "price tag" attacks have been met with widespread condemnation and pledges by Israel's government to get tougher on Jewish vigilantes.
The price tags attacks are violence aimed at the Palestinian population and at Israeli security forces by radical Israeli settlers, who, according to The New York Times, "exact a price from local Palestinians or from the Israeli security forces for any action taken against their settlement enterprise." The Wall Street Journal states the term refers to "a campaign of retribution by fundamentalist Israeli youths against Palestinians in the West Bank."
Over the period from January 2012 to June 2013, Israeli police registered 788 cases of suspected price tag assaults in which 276 arrests were conducted, leading to 154 indictments.
Israel's Minister of Public Security, Gilad Erdan, said they will not allow anyone to undermine the coexistence between religions in Israel. "We will show zero tolerance to whomever harms the democratic foundations of Israel and its freedom of religion and we will apprehend those who carried out this heinous act," he said.
The current church and monastery, owned by the German Benedictine Order, was consecrated in 1906.
The Benedictine Abbey, a popular site for pilgrims and tourists, has been damaged several times in recent years. Last February, arsonists set fire to a building near the abbey. In 2013 and 2012, similar anti-Christian graffiti was written on the abbey's walls.
The vandals are believed to be from the same group of Jewish extremists who carried out similar attacks in recent years in retaliation for Palestinian attacks, or to protest what they perceive as pro-Palestinian policies by the government.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also condemned the vandalism. During the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, he said, "This is an action deserving of every condemnation, there is no place for actions like these. Israel is a place where Christians and all other religions enjoy freedom of worship, and the only place in the Middle East where the Christian population is growing. The police are working on finding those responsible."