Life in the Old City was marred by an unfortunate event last week as a youth vandalized the Dormition Abbey on neighboring Mount Zion. Everyone has the right to their opinion but spray painting “Death To Christians” on the walls of a church is inciting hate and is a disgrace to our religious beliefs. As chairperson of the Jewish Quarter Community Council I felt compelled to write a letter to the church condemning the hateful defacing of their holy place.
However, following the murder of Dafna Meir hy”d in Otniel I suffered from creative paralysis. The senseless murder, the fact that the assailant was a mere 15 years old, compounded with international indifference to the attack, weighed heavy on my heart and my hand, and the letter was never penned.
It was a relief when the police arrested the perpetrator of the church vandalism, and a greater relief that he was not a resident of our neighborhood. Nevertheless, in the name of coexistence, a statement from the council needed to be issued.
As luck would have it, Thursday night Mayor Nir Barkat hosted an evening entitled “In the Spirit of Inter-Religious Coexistence” at the municipality to welcome in the civil new year. The event was attended by representatives of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and all spoke out in the name of peace and dialogue in the city of peace, Jerusalem. It was an honor to be part of a bubble of mutual understanding for an hour or so.
Upon entering the conference hall I realized that representatives from the Dormition Abbey were likely in attendance and asked Yehudit, the mayor’s assistant, to make a formal introduction. This led to meeting Father Ralph and to the opportunity to express first hand my pain over the violation of his holy place. I reminded him that after the evacuation of the Jewish Quarter in 1948, the fleeing Jewish community found refuge from the Jordanian troops in the Abbey, before continuing their flight to the new city, and he invited the community to (once again) visit the Church. We exchanged phone numbers and it is my desire that from the bitter shall come sweetness, and that somehow the barriers and fears which many of us have of the other will be overcome through dialogue.
The evening in the municipality was surreal. Amidst the pain and the fear of ongoing terror attacks, rabbis, priests, imams in their respective head gear and vestments, together with members of all three communities, listened to representatives of each faith speak with hope for a joint future in Jerusalem.
Without in any way equating the severity of the evil, isn’t it a shame that the 15 year old murderer of Dafna hy”d and the (l’havdil) misguided graffiti vandal were not exposed to these views before they chose to perpetrate their acts of hatred?
With prayers for peace from Jerusalem…..