Wednesday, May 31st | 12 Sivan 5783

March 24, 2023 10:22 am

Russian Foreign Ministry Slams Israel Over Attack Inside Church in Jerusalem

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avatar by Ben Cohen

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova alongside Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Photo: Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov

Russia’s foreign ministry on Friday seized the opportunity to hold the Israeli authorities to account for an attack that took place last Sunday at the Church of Gethsemane in eastern Jerusalem that was perpetrated by as yet unnamed Israeli individuals.

“We are convinced that there is no justification, and that there can never be any justification, for such criminal acts, and hope that the Israeli authorities will provide an unequivocal assessment of what happened and to take comprehensive measures to bring perpetrators to justice and prevent the recurrence of such attacks in the future,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Friday in an official statement reported by the Palestinian Wafa news agency.

Zakharova stressed Moscow’s “profound concern” about the status of Christians in Jerusalem. Without citing any specific cases, she claimed that “the number of anti-Christian incidents has grown at an alarming pace recently, as churches, cemeteries of various Christian denominations, clergy, and monks, have become targets for these attacks.”

While several Christian news outlets reported that two men identified as “Israeli radicals” carried out Sunday’s attack, amateur video of the incident at the church showed only one assailant, who threw sacred objects to the floor and assaulted a priest during a religious service before being subdued by other worshipers, who pinned him to the ground. The video showed Israeli police arriving at the church and taking the man into custody.

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The Church of Gethsemane — also known as the Church of All Nations — is located adjacent to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. According to Christian tradition, Jesus prayed there prior to his arrest by the Roman authorities, while his mother, Mary, is said to be buried at a site nearby. The Church is used by a variety of Christian denominations, including the Eastern Orthodox churches and the Lutheran Church.

With no let-up in the invasion of Ukraine, Russian official spokespersons have been keen to point out alleged human rights abuses in those countries, including Israel, that have provided the democratic government in Kyiv with diplomatic support and humanitarian aid. Zakharova’s outraged condemnation of the attack in Jerusalem came at the end of a week that saw Russian President Vladimir Putin indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out by Russian forces in Ukraine.

Despite Putin’s military alliance with the Iranian regime and a widespread concern that antisemitism is again rising in the country, Russian propaganda has depicted Ukraine’s leaders — including the country’s Jewish President, Volodymyr Zelensky — as “neo-Nazis.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this piece mistakenly conflated Mary Magdalene, a follower of Jesus, with Jesus’s mother Mary. We apologize for the error.


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