As a supporter of our Restoring Friendship campaign for rebuilding at Tabgha, you stood up against religious extremism and declared loud and clear, Not In Our Name. Thanks to you and others who joined our efforts, our campaign to raise funds to rebuild the burnt friendship center exceeded its target. But the campiagn to restore trust and rebuild friendship is ongoing. And now, another act of hate threatens to ruin what we are trying so hard to build.
On Saturday night (16.1.16) graffiti was sprayed on the walls of Jerusalem’s Dormition Abbey. Some of the graffiti sets a new standard in hate-speech in the Holy Land, calling for murder of Christians, and is accompanied by related graphics. Jewish leaders and scholars of the Elijah Interfaith Institute unequivocally condemn this attack and urge authorities to apprehend and punish the perpetrators.
One quote echoes the earlier attack at the Church of the Multiplication, of the same community. The statement is a quote from the Jewish prayer book, in which one prays for the elimination of all idols, והאלילים כרות יכרתון. This was the graffiti that accompanied the arson at Tabgha.
Elijah would like to recall on this occasion the broad support we received from rabbinic leadership following that attack. As you know, Leading Orthodox figures supported our crowd-funding initiative to rebuild parts of the complex destroyed by fire. Their opposition on principled grounds to such hate crimes applies not only to acts of arson but also to the destructive and hateful messages painted on the walls of the Dormition Abbey, and to the inappropriate use of these prayer texts as hateful slogans used against others. Christians are not idolaters, and even those who consider them to worship inappropriately do not provide any halachic justification for hate speech and antagonism. We condemn these activities as opposed to the spirit of Torah.
Yesterday, Pope Francis visited the Synagogue in Rome as a gesture of friendship between Jews and Christians. We must all take stock of advances in Jewish-Christian relations and recognize that a new era has dawned. In this era, there is absolutely no room for such ill-informed, ignorant and hateful behavior.
As a Tabgha campaign supporter, we urge you to join us again in taking concrete action. Please share this statement on facebook and with your email lists to spread the message that we refuse to allow extremists to commitment acts of hate in the name of our religions.
Rabbi Dr. Alon Goshen-Gottstein
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