Nineteen gravestones and crosses in the Christian cemetery of Biram in northern Israel were vandalized on Wednesday, for the fifth time in recent years. Biram was a Maronite Christian village in the Upper Galilee near the Lebanese border whose residents were ordered by Israeli authorities to evacuate their homes in 1948, with the promise that they would be able to return once the security situation stabilized. They have not been allowed back ever since.
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Father Afif Mahoul said that even though the residents no longer live there, since 1967 they have been allowed to bury their dead in the cemetery there; and they hold a mass every week in the church at Biram, where he officiates.
Mahoul said that on Wednesday morning the person responsible for gardening noticed the damage and filed a complaint with the police in Safed. The police said an investigation was underway in cooperation with other security bodies.
“This time we will not be silent, we are sick of it,” said Camal Yakub, the spokesman for the evacuees of Biram. This is the fifth time such vandalism has occurred in the past three years. There were two similar cases decades ago, as well as vandalism of the church. However, Yakub said the damage this time was much worse than on previous occasions.
Despite previous attacks, the authorities do not allow the installation of cameras, Yakub said, adding that if the complaint to the police does not help the former Biram residents will appeal to other bodies.
The heads of the Catholic Church in Israel released a harsh condemnation of the vandalism and called on the government and law enforcement bodies to act immediately to bring those responsible to justice, and to allow the former residents to finally return to their ancestral village.
The statement was issued with the approval of the Vatican, which was informed of the vandalism, Haaretz has learned.
Israel's President Reuven Rivlin this week met with top church officials and denounced violence on holy sites.