Catholic Church officials in Israel expressed frustration on Tuesday over the acquittal of two Israeli Jews accused of vandalizing Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion back in 2016.
Dormition Abbey is believed by many Christians to be the place were the Virgin Mary died.
During a spate of anti-Christian vandalism several years ago, someone scrawled the phrases "death to Christians", "death to Arabs" and "Jesus is a monkey" in Hebrew on the outer walls of the monastery.
That and the other affronts to local Christians were widely condemned by the Israeli government, media and public. The Israel Police launched a major crackdown on the extremist groups believed to be responsible, in particular a Jewish settler movement known as the "hilltop youth." The two people arrested for the Dormotion Abbey vandalism, one of whom was a minor at the time, were charged with being part of that movement, which Israeli officials took the extraordinary step of labeling as "terrorists."
The minor who was arrested for vandalizing the abbey reportedly confessed to the act, but only under what an Israeli court later ruled was emotional torture. As such, the confession was deemed inadmissible earlier this year, and on Monday the State Attorney determined it did not have enough actual evidence to move forward.
Wadi Abunassar, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, decried the acquittal of the two suspects as "unacceptable," and demanded that "the Israeli authorities find those who committed this attack and punish them in a way that will deter others from committing similar offenses in the future!"
What was interesting about these developments was that the Israeli authorities were prepared to torture a Jewish teenager in order to punish someone for a non-violent assault on a local church, and that officials connected to that church were adamant that someone be punished, even if there wasn't enough physical evidence to connect them to the crime.
PHOTO: A view of Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion, just outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)