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The head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land, Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, has warned that the rise of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government has worsened conditions for Christians in the birthplace of Christianity. In an interview with The Associated Press, Pizzaballa stated that the region’s 2,000-year-old Christian community has come under increasing attack due to the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.

Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa’s Concerns

Pizzaballa reported that extremists have harassed clergy and vandalized religious property at an increasing rate. The rise in anti-Christian incidents coincides with the Israeli settler movement’s apparent seizing of the moment to expand its enterprise in the contested capital. “The frequency of these attacks, the aggressions, has become something new,” said Pizzaballa. “These people feel they are protected … that the cultural and political atmosphere now can justify, or tolerate, actions against Christians.”

Israel’s Stated Commitment to Freedom of Worship

However, the Israeli government maintains that it prioritizes religious freedom and relations with the churches. Tania Berg-Rafaeli, the director of the world religions department at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, stated, “Israel’s commitment to freedom of religion has been important to us forever. It’s the case for all religions and all minorities that have free access to holy sites.”
Despite this, Christians claim that authorities do not adequately protect their sites from targeted attacks. Tensions have increased following an Israeli police raid on the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which sparked outrage among Muslims and a regional confrontation last week.

Sacred Ground for Three Major Religions

Jerusalem holds immense significance for three major religions. For Christians, it is the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection; for Jews, it is the ancient capital and home to two biblical Jewish temples; and for Muslims, it is where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.

Escalating Attacks on Christians

Recent incidents include the desecration of a historic Christian cemetery, vandalism of a church’s Christ rendering, and the attack of a priest in the Garden of Gethsemane. Many Christians feel caught between Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians, in the teeming Old City.

Christians Allege Police Inaction

Christians argue that Israeli police have not taken most attacks seriously, with authorities often attributing cases of desecration and harassment to mental illness rather