The Feast of Saint George, an important holiday celebrated by Arab Christians, ended recently. However, it did not end well for those celebrating at the festival’s focal point, the Monastery of Saint George near Bethlehem.
Saint George’s Monastery is located in the village of al-Khadar, which is the Arabic name used for Saint George. Every year, Arab Christians, and even some Muslims, gather at the monastery as well as at other locations throughout the region to commemorate George’s martyrdom and dedication to his faith.
During this year’s festival, which occurred on May 6, the Christians gathered at Saint George’s were attacked by Muslim provocateurs and assailants. It now seems that these violent anti-religious attacks are no longer limited to attacking Jews or the Temple Mount any longer.
Lela Gilbert, author of Saturday People, Sunday People, Israel through the Eyes of a Christian Sojourner, provided an initial report to CAMERA, an organization which monitors anti-Israel bias in the media. Gilbert reported that Christians attempting to enter Saint George’s Monastery in the village were intimidated and attacked by stoning.
“A Bethlehem Greek Orthodox Church (St. George’s Church – al-Khadar – near Beit Jala) was attacked by Muslims during its annual St. George’s Day services on May 6… Some local Muslims either tried to park a car too close the church and/or tried to enter the church during a service honoring St. George – the initial instigation isn’t clear,” Gilbert reported. “But when the intruders were asked to leave, one of them stabbed a Christian man who was outside the church serving as a guard. He was hospitalized. Several then started throwing stones at the church. Seven or eight Christians were injured and some physical damage was done – broken windows etc. The police didn’t show up for an hour.
One of the victims managed to record a portion of the attack on his cell phone and uploaded the footage to YouTube, where it has since been seen by over 20,000 people.
Police did not comment, but according to Dexter Van Zile, CAMERA’s Christian Media Analyst, “it seems pretty obvious that whatever police presence there was… it was insufficient to prevent an outbreak of violence, which resulted in several injuries including one broken nose.”
“No matter how you look at it, the episode represents a failure on the part of the Palestinian Authority, one that local journalists and Christian leaders are – for understandable reasons – reluctant to highlight,” Van Zile added.
In a recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, former Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, wrote that “As 800,000 Jews were once expelled from Arab countries, so are Christians being forced from lands they’ve inhabited for centuries” throughout the Middle East.
Citing statistics, Oren wrote that Ramallah was 90 percent Christian before the 1948 War of Independence and Bethlehem was 80 percent Christian. Today Ramallah is a large Islamic city and Bethlehem’s Christians are near extinction.
al-Khadar, which is near the Etzion group of townships just south of Jerusalem and north of Hebron, is also a known hotbed of Muslim attacks on Jews. Cars traveling near the town are frequently attacked by Muslim youths throwing rocks and even firebombs. Rock attacks perpetrated by Arab terrorists have killed and maimed many people, including babies.