After an assault by Israeli settlers on an Armenian restaurant in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem on Thursday, Christian leaders in the Holy Land have condemned the violence, urged greater protection of minority groups and warned of “radical aggression” by forces determined to impose an exclusively “Jewish character” on the city, cruxnow.com reports.
On Thursday evening, a group of settlers swarmed the Taboon Wine Barat the New Gate in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem. CCTV footage shows the group carrying banners and throwing chairs violently toward the restaurant and those seated inside.
Israeli police, who arrived an hour after a call had been made, ushered the crowd away but reportedly made no arrests.
The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, which brings together the leaders of the various Catholic churches in the region, quickly reacted.
“This unprovoked violence instilled fear in the shopkeepers and residents of the Christian quarter as well as visitors,” the bishops said, calling the incident the latest in “a series of episodes of religious violence that is affecting the symbols of the Christian community and beyond.”
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa visited the restaurant owners Friday afternoon, as well as owners of nearby shops whose businesses were also targeted, as a sign of solidarity amid what he said is an increased threat to the Christian presence in Jerusalem.
The Orthodox Jerusalem Patriarchate asserted that “allowing members of such radical groups to freely march and roam around the neighborhoods of Jerusalem while armed and having declared criminal intentions, is considered as complicit in the attack and displays unwelcomed leniency with the criminals.”
In a statement, the patriarchate called for “protection of the unarmed people of Old City from radical aggressors who aim to change the diverse character of the city of Jerusalem and its cultural and religious mosaic, determined to limit it to one character being their radical definition and depiction of what a Jewish character should be.”
The patriarchate also asserted its right to take legal action to prevent future marches by radical forces.
The settlers reportedly cursed Islamic prophet Mohammed and shouted ‘Death to Arabs’ near the area’s Bab Al-Amoud Plaza, harassing Palestinian youth. In another act of violence in Jerusalem, at least seven people were killed and three injured when a gunman opened fire at a synagogue in East Jerusalem Friday night.
Jewish worshippers had gathered for prayers at the start of their sabbath celebrations at a synagogue in the Neve Yaakov neighborhood and were leaving when the gunman began shooting. Police, who shot the attacker dead, described him as a “terrorist” and said the incident was one of the worst attacks in recent years.
The incident coincided with Holocaust Memorial Day, which commemorates the roughly six million Jews and others killed as part of the German Nazi Holocaust during the Second World War. The day is observed at an international level.