Christian cemetery vandalized near Jerusalem

(JTA) – Several tombstones and crucibles were vandalized at a Christian cemetery and monastery near Beth Shemesh, west of Jerusalem.

Monks on Sunday discovered the vandalism, including the toppling of tombstones and smashing of tombs, Antonio Scudo, an Italian monk from the Bait Jimal Salesian monastery, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. Some 30 graves were vandalized in total.

A police forensic team is investigating the desecration of the cemetery. Police do not have suspects in custody.

A popular pilgrimage and tourism site, Bait Jimal has been vandalized several times.

Vandals desecrated the cemetery in 1981 and 2015. In 2013, a firebomb was thrown at the church causing minor damage, and the words “price tag” were spray painted on a wall. In 2017, vandals shattered stained-glass windows, destroyed a statue of the Virgin Mary, and damaged furniture, the Post reported.

Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid opposition party, condemned the attack on church property. “Harm done to cemeteries is a despicable act, and must not pass without widespread condemnation when it is carried out in Israel.”

Archaeologists identify Bait Jimal as the village of Rabban Gamaliel the Elder, a leading rabbinical authority in the Sanhedrin in the early 1st century and the grandson of the Mishnaic sage Hillel, the Post noted.

St. Stephen, a disciple of Jesus, is believed to be buried in a cave at the monastery.

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