Jewish extremist attacks on Christians in Israel

Right wing evangelical Christians in the US have at least two agendas. One is to portray themselves as a persecuted minority both at home and abroad. In the US, this ‘persecution’ takes the form of whining about not having a privileged place in the public sphere, even though as a majority they have so many advantages. They are also quick to seize upon attacks on Christians who are a minority in other countries as further evidence of this global persecution of their faith.

The other agenda of right wing evangelical Christians is to be strong supporters of the right wing of the Israeli political spectrum. This results in them not being critical about the harsh treatment of Palestinians in Israel and in the occupied territories that has resulted in what is effectively apartheid-like conditions imposed on them. The reason for this may be because Christians and Jews share the Old Testament of the Bible and that forms a bond. Another is the shared antipathy to Muslims who are deemed to be not worthy of consideration of the same rights as anyone else. Yet another may be that evangelical Christians eagerly await the second coming of Jesus and seek signs of his imminent arrival. These End-Timers view strife in the Middle East as a key indicator of Armageddon’s onset and thus view any escalation of violence there as a good thing.

But recently there have been events in Israel that put those two agendas in potential conflict. This consists of a surge of violence by Jewish extremists against Christians in Israel, who have been emboldened by having a right-wing government that shamelessly panders to them.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land has warned in an interview that the rise of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government has made life worse for Christians in the birthplace of Christianity.

The influential Vatican-appointed Latin Patriarch, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, told The Associated Press that the region’s 2,000-year-old Christian community has come under increasing attack, with the most right-wing government in Israel’s history emboldening extremists who have harassed clergy and vandalized religious property at a quickening pace.

The uptick in anti-Christian incidents comes as the Israeli settler movement, galvanized by its allies in government, appears to have seized the moment to expand its enterprise in the contested capital.

Now, 2023 is shaping up to be the worst year for Christians in a decade, according to Yusef Daher from the Inter-Church Center, a group that coordinates between the denominations.

Physical assaults and harassment of clergy often go unreported, the center said. It has documented at least seven serious cases of vandalism of church properties from January to mid-March — a sharp increase from six anti-Christian cases recorded in all of 2022. Church leaders blame Israeli extremists for most of the incidents, and say they fear an even greater surge.

In March, a pair of Israelis burst into the basilica beside the Garden of Gethsemane, where the Virgin Mary is said to have been buried. They pounced on a priest with a metal rod before being arrested.

In February, a religious American Jew yanked a 10-foot rendering of Christ from its pedestal and smashed it onto the floor, striking its face with a hammer a dozen times at the Church of the Flagellation on the Via Dolorosa, along which it’s believed Jesus hauled his cross toward his crucifixion. “No idols in the holy city of Jerusalem!” he yelled.

Armenians found hateful graffiti on the walls of their convent. Priests of all denominations say they’ve been stalked, spat on and beaten during their walks to church. In January, religious Jews knocked over and vandalized 30 graves marked with stone crosses at a historic Christian cemetery in the city. Two teenagers were arrested and charged with causing damage and insulting religion.

But Christians allege that Israeli police haven’t taken most attacks seriously. In one case, 25-year-old George Kahkejian said he was the one beaten, arrested and detained for 17 hours after a mob of Jewish settlers scaled his Armenian Christian convent to tear down its flag earlier this year. The police had no immediate comment.

So far, this story has not garnered much media attention in the US, enabling Christians here to ignore it. I expect them to continue ignoring for as long as it stays below the radar, so that they are not forced to take a stand either way.


  1. crivitz says

    The actions described in this report (which is the first I’ve heard of this phenomenon) sound very much like the acts of violence of the Trumpists over here in the US, be they actually carried out or only threatened via social media. In other words, whether in Israel or the US, it’s another example of stochastic terrorism. In the US, these attacks have been encouraged by Trump’s statements going back many years although I don’t know if Netanyahu is exactly revered by Israel’s fanatics the same way Trump’s fans are here, but maybe the Israeli attackers feel freer to operate now that Netanyahu has returned to power.

  2. moarscienceplz says

    Netanyahu is an idiot if he turns a blind eye to this. Between antisemitism on the Right and antipathy towards his own government on the Left in the U.S., the Israel/America relationship is getting pretty tattered. With our efforts to get away from fossil fuels, the U.S. will soon be able to ignore the Middle East, and if Israel gets a reputation for being antichristian, Netanyahu could find himself with very few allies in a very dangerous neighborhood.

  3. says


    As a point of clarification I would comment on one sentence:

    The reason for this may be because Christians and Jews share the Old Testament of the Bible and that forms a bond.

    For most people this is true, but there is a nuance here that I think might shed some light on the situation.

    The word “testament” commonly used here is a reference to an Old (superseded) Covenant and a New (replacement) Covenant. Christians like the History bits and the poetry of the Psalms and the pithiness of Proverbs, but want to reject the law giving, the Covenant, of the Hebrew Bible, commonly referred to as the Tanach, made up of the Torah, the teachings of the Prophets and the other writings entered in canon.

    So nobody is “sharing” the Tanach which Jews do not see as a document no longer in use. Christians are cherry picking the bits that support their narrative while rejecting all the parts (and there are many) that do not.

    Both sides are using the other in the short term to further their ultimate goals. Once all other external threats are eliminated, either the Christians will boot the Jews out of Israel or the Jews will boot Christians out of Israel. The two cannot coexist without common enemy.

  4. KG says

    The reason for this may be because Christians and Jews share the Old Testament of the Bible and that forms a bond. -- Mano

    Hardly. For most of the history of Christianity antipathy towards Jews, often rising to genocidal levels, has been a constant, often justified from the New Testament, particularly the Gospel of John. Christian claims to have supplanted the Jews as God’s “Chosen People” scarcely conduce to good relations. It’s only since the Holocaust, the foundation of the state of Israel and its role as the USA’s chief ally in the Middle East, and (as you suggest) the joint antipathy to Muslims that have led to the widespread use of the term “Judeo-Christian” among much of the American (and to a much lesser extent, European) right. And it’s obvious enough the antisemitic impulse is still very much alive, as we see in the further reaches of the far right and their fantasies of Jewish plots to encourage Muslim immigration to the USA and Europe.

  5. sonofrojblake says

    if Israel gets a reputation for being antichristian, Netanyahu could find himself with very few allies

    Yeah, sure, very few -- just a massively disproportionate cross-section of the richest people in the world, and a similarly disproportionate number of the people at the very top of the biggest and most influential media and news outlets. That never helped anyone.

  6. anat says

    One reason Netanyahu’s Christian supporters are not likely to care much about this is that the ones being attacked are mostly Catholic, whom Evangelicals don’t consider to be Christian in the first place.

    Anyway, Netanyahu’s rhetoric these days follows the line of Jabotinsky, founder of the right-nationalistic branch of political Zionism: There will never be peace with Palestinians, the conflict is inevitable, at best it can be contained, what Israel needs to do is be a ‘wall of iron’, stand firm and fight, forever more.

  7. mnb0 says

    “The reason for this may be because Christians and Jews share the Old Testament of the Bible and that forms a bond.”
    It’s a bit different. Right wing christians expect Armageddon to begin in Israel and that’s impossible if that state doesn’t exist.

  8. says

    If US Christians want to make a “poor persecuted Christians” story out of this, they’ll have to own up to the fact that, in this case, it’s one group of Christians being persecuted by a state, and a ruling party, fervently supported by millions of other Christians on explicitly religious grounds. This isn’t a hostile decadent pagan state, like the Persian Empire as shown in 300, it’s a country that many Christians look up to as both a Crusader State and the bringer of the End Times. And the sectarian bigotry of Israel’s current government has been consistently and unwaveringly supported by CHRISTIAN sectarian bigots in the US.

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