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Herzog and police chief visit Haifa church, strongly condemn anti-Christian violence

Visit to Stella Maris Church comes after repeated attempts by a Jewish group to pray there

Israel's President Isaac Herzog and Police Chief Kobi Shabtai on Wednesday visited the Stella Maris Church and Monastery in Haifa. Photo by Kobi Gideon (GPO)

Israel's President Isaac Herzog and Police Chief Kobi Shabtai visited the Stella Maris Church and Monastery in Haifa on Wednesday, together with representatives of Christian churches.

During the visit, Herzog condemned recent violence against Christians in Israel as "unacceptable."

Herzog's visit, intended to show support for the beleaguered community, comes after an ultra-Orthodox group of Breslov Hasidim Jews repeatedly tried to enter and pray at Stella MarisChurch, claiming the area as a Jewish holy site, which resulted in scuffles and violence.

"In recent months we have seen very serious phenomena towards the Christian communities in the Holy Land," Herzog said.

"Our brothers and sisters, Christian citizens who feel attacked in places of worship, in cemeteries, on the street. I view this phenomenon as very serious, it is unacceptable under any circumstances. This phenomenon needs to be uprooted, and I am very grateful to the Israel Police and the enforcement agencies for taking this issue seriously."

"We must respect the members of all religions, we have committed to this since the beginning of our existence. This is the most basic commandment of 'love your neighbor as yourself'," Herzog added.

The president went on to emphasize that the State of Israel remains fully committed to the freedom of religion and worship.

View of the Stella Maris Monastery in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, on August 1, 2023. In recent months, the church has been suffering from protests ultra-Orthodox Jews claiming the church is on the tomb of Elisha the prophet. Photo by Shir Torem/Flash90

Herzog promised to ensure that "the peace and tranquility in this place and in all the churches and in all the holy sites of the Christian communities in the State of Israel, in the Holy Land, will be preserved as they have been from time immemorial."

"We must ensure that a holy and quiet atmosphere will return to this place, and if we want to have a historical or theological discussion that we all draw from the Holy Bible it can of course be done, but in a different atmosphere,' Herzog added.

Israel Police Chief Kobi Shabtai also assured the Christian communities that the police will make efforts to stop attacks against Christians, promising, "We are here to give you the feeling of security and any assistance that may be required."

The abbot of the Stella Maris Monastery, Father Joseph Baragra, thanked the police and the mayor of Haifa for their support.

"We need to work together to encourage dialogue, solidarity and brotherhood among us because we belong to the same country and live in the same places," Baragra said.

"We want to live together in peace and harmony. Thank you for your cooperation and support. We are all sons of the same God."

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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