Netanyahu: Israel is Tolerant but Will Not Tolerate Religious Vandalism

Jerusalem, Oct. 9 – Vandals desecrated Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious sites in Israel and the West Bank over the weekend, causing residents and religious leaders to respond with resounding condemnations of such despicable acts.

A Molotov cocktail was hurled at a Jaffa synagogue after one of Judaism’s holiest days - Yom Kippur - finished at sundown Saturday (Oct. 8). The violence followed the desecration of Christian and Muslim cemeteries in Jaffa the prior evening. The vandalism - hateful slogans spray-painted on about 25 headstones - was discovered by local residents.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decried the acts: “We have recently witnessed attacks on Islamic sites, a Christian site and a Jewish site – a synagogue was attacked. We are not prepared to tolerate any vandalism, especially that directed against religious sensitivities. The State of Israel is both a tolerant state and a very intolerant state.

“Our tolerance is toward religious sensitivities and our need to continue living together in coexistence and mutual respect, without violence, in tranquility and peace. Our intolerance is directed toward those who oppose these practices and this way of life. We will act with all vigor to find them. I have instructed the security forces to bring those responsible to justice. We will act against them to the fullest extent of the law,” added Netanyahu in a media statement.

Tel Aviv’s Mayor Ron Huldai also denounced the acts. He called Sheikh Sattel, Jaffa’s spiritual leader, immediately after learning about the incidents to say he was “embarrassed” about such acts and that extremists must not ruin the lives of Israelis.

“We believe that 99.9 percent of the citizens in Jaffa believe that we should all live in peace together. Let’s not let the ‘extremists’ on both ends ruin this for all of us,’ Arie Sheffer, the manager of Jaffa’s unofficial website for the past five years, told The Israel Project.

Some 200 local Jewish and Arab residents held a solidarity march in Jaffa Saturday evening deploring the derogatory slogans. One resident told Israel Radio: “I have lived here since I finished my army service and Jaffa is my home. I work with local religious leaders to create an environment of tolerance. These acts have no place in our community.”

Khamis Abulafia, one of the owners of Jaffa’s best known bakery, Abulafia, argued for people to show restraint while emotions are running high. “We must not resort to dangerous generalizations that could play into the hands of radicals. Despite the great pain, we must let our minds lead the way and as much as possible stay away from emotional conduct that will only cause damage,” wrote Abulafia in an op-ed in the Israeli news-site YNet.

The Assembly of Catholic Bishops in the Holy Land also issued a press release condemning Friday’s attack and asking the Israeli government to bring the few radicals responsible for the attacks to justice, WAFA, Palestine News and Info Agency, reported.

Last Thursday (Oct. 6), the Israel Defense Forces discovered swastikas painted on Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, a major West Bank city that hosts Jewish and Muslim holy sites. The hate-signs were discovered as the IDF was preparing for the arrival of Jewish worshippers on Yom Kippur. Although the Palestinian Authority controls Nablus, Jewish worshippers are allowed to visit Joseph’s Tomb under a special arrangement that includes and IDF escort.

Joseph’s Tomb is a pilgrimage site for religious Jews because it is believed to be the final resting place of Joseph, a Jewish biblical figure. Muslims also consider the site holy because an Islamic cleric, Sheikh Yussef (Joseph) Dawiqat, was buried there two centuries ago, AFP reported.

Meanwhile, the IDF is planning to continue to take down illegal Jewish outposts in the West Bank. Such evacuations have been causing tensions between Jewish settlers and the IDF.

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