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Concerns raised about spate of vandalism by hardline Jewish nationalists in Jerusalem churches and attacks in Galilee
|Hebrew graffiti on a church wall near the ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood of Mea Sharim in Jerusalem reads: 'King David, king of the Jews and Jesus is garbage'. Photograph: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images|
Earlier this week vandals wrote "Death to Arabs and Christians" in Hebrew on the Vatican's Notre Dame centre in Jerusalem's Old City and on Thursday night offensive graffiti was written on a wall close to the Romanian Orthodox church.
Pope Francis is due to stay at the Notre Dame centre during his two-day trip to Jerusalem and Bethlehem from 24 to 26 May.
Both incidents come just weeks after a spate of attacks against Christians in Galilee, where a place of worship was vandalised and stones thrown at pilgrims. A radical rabbi also sent a threatening letter to a priest in Nazareth.
"It is increasing daily because nobody is doing anything about it. The police must know who these people are," said Jamal Khader, the head of the Latin Patriarchate seminary and spokesman for the pope's visit to Palestine.
Khader said there were no safety fears in terms of the pope's visit, but he dismissed criticism by some commentators in Israel that graffiti was a minor offence being blown out of proportion.
"Should we wait until they start attacking Christians? What we have seen in Rwanda, in South Africa, even in Germany in the early 30s is that … a wave of hatred, of demonising the other, can be followed by attacks," he said.
In a statement earlier this week the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem said that Christians in Israel felt neither safe nor protected and called on the government to take action against rightwing Jewish extremists.
Acts of vandalism and violence against Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank are known as "price-tagging", a campaign of intimidation that extremists claim is the price Palestinians should pay for Israeli government crackdowns or restrictions on settlement activity... READ MORE