U.S. Sharply Condemns Vandalization of Christian Cemetery on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion

After another attack on Protestant graveyard, Biden’s antisemitism envoy Deborah Lipstadt also condemns ‘despicable act’

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
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A toppled cross at the Protestant cemetery at Mount Zion, in Jerusalem, today.
A toppled cross at the Protestant cemetery at Mount Zion, in Jerusalem, today.Credit: Oliver Hersey
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Thursday sharply condemned the vandalization of the Protestant Christian cemetery on Mount Zion in Jerusalem earlier this week.

“Concerned to see a Mt. Zion Holy Site targeted again. We spoke with the Churches, and welcome Israeli, PA, and the intl. community calls for accountability. Religious site vandalism by anyone is unacceptable. Jerusalem must be a city for all of its people,” said the U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs, which was established last summer in hopes of differentiating the U.S.-Palestinian bilateral relationship from the U.S.-Israel relationship.

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U.S. special antisemitism envoy Deborah Lipstadt echoed these remarks in a rare rebuke of her own. “I condemn this despicable act. Desecration of any and all holy sites is unacceptable, and the sanctity of burial must be respected. Families have the right to peacefully lay to rest loved ones. We must work together to call out all forms of hate whenever and wherever they occur,” she noted.

Lipstadt last summer harshly condemned an incident where ultra-Orthodox teens assaulted non-Orthodox families holding bar- and bat-mitzvahs at the Western Wall, hypothetically positing “if this happened in another country, wouldn’t we call it antisemitism?”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry had issued similar condemnations, stating that it was “neither religious nor ethical, and its perpetrators must be brought to justice. The State of Israel has guaranteed since its founding freedom of worship and religion for members of every faith, and will continue to be such a home.”

The vandalism, however, came days after Israel’s most far-right government in history was sworn in, feeding concerns that its rhetoric could embolden Jewish extremism.

Security footage captured the two suspected vandals breaking into the graveyard at about 3:20 P.M., when they broke crosses, toppled headstones, destroyed iconography and threw debris over the cemetery walls. They continued to throw parts of marble crosses at headstones while desecrating more than 30 graves.

The cemetery was established in 1848 and is maintained by the local Lutheran and Anglican communities. Among the graves vandalized were three of British police officers from the British Mandate period and others of the Protestant community, including Bishop Samuel Gobat, the second Protestant bishop of Jerusalem – who purchased the land for the cemetery – and died in 1879.

Vandals have repeatedly targeted the cemetery in the past, and in recent years religious and ultra-Orthodox Jews have increased harassment and abuse of Christian clergy in the area. Recently, two Givati infantry brigade soldiers were questioned on suspicions they spit at a procession of Armenian priests in the Old City of Jerusalem.

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