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Israeli foreign minister calls to prosecute attackers of Christians 'without leniency'

Cohen makes statement after meeting with a Maronite advocate for the rights of Israeli Christians

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in a recorded message with Shadi Khalloul (Photo: Screenshot)

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen strongly condemned perpetrators of attacks against Christians and churches in Israel, a phenomenon that has been rising in the last few months.

Cohen's comment was posted in a video on Twitter after a Foreign Ministry meeting with Shadi Khalloul, a Maronite Christian from the Galilee region, a former Knesset candidate for the Yisrael Beytenu party and active reserve officer in the Israel Defense Forces.

"We discussed issues related to the Christian community, including the issue of violence against Christians throughout Israel. This is an unacceptable and reprehensible phenomenon that we must address and prosecute the perpetrators without leniency," Cohen said.

"Jews and Christians share a strong and warm connection," Cohen continued. "Between Jews and Christians worldwide, and among Jewish and Christian citizens of Israel, we live together with mutual respect and partnership."

"I will not tolerate such repulsive phenomena, and I wish all friends that we continue to live together in mutual respect and cooperation... and continue to work together for the sake of Israel and all its citizens," he added.

Khalloul is a prominent activist, specifically for the rights and traditions of Maronite Christians who speak Arabic, but worship in Aramaic. As a result, these Christians call themselves Aramean and see themselves as a separate, non-Arab community.

Until 2015, Aramean Christians were not recognized as their own population group in the Jewish state. Khalloul fought to change the law and succeeded in 2014, when his son became the first child officially recognized by the Interior Ministry as an Aramean Israeli.

Cohen's meeting with the Khalloul dealt specifically with the recent violence against Christian communities in Haifa and Jerusalem, according to the Khalloul, who published the short video on his Twitter page.

In recent weeks, an ultra-orthodox group of Breslov Hasidim repeatedly tried to enter and pray at the Stella Maris Monastery and Catholic church in Haifa, claiming the area as a Jewish holy site, an incident which resulted in violence. The local community has since erected fences and created a small security force made up of young men. On Sunday, July 23, a scuffle between the groups escalated into physical violence, with police and ambulances being called to the scene, according to Times of Israel report.

Meanwhile, multiple instances of violence against Christian believers have been reported in Jerusalem.

On June 22, a far-right Orthodox Jewish religious group disrupted a worship event planned and promoted by the Messianic Jewish Alliance of Israel (MJAI) at a believer-owned venue in Jerusalem.

The protest of some 150 demonstrators, including Lehava Founder Bentzi Gopstein and Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Aryeh King, soon led to rioting.

Just a few weeks prior, King had been involved in another disruptive event during Jerusalem's annual Sunday Pentecost service near the Western Wall. Christian tourists and local Jewish believers gathered for the “Global Day of Prayer for Jerusalem and the Nations,” but were shouted at and physically intimidated.

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

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