Jewish youths’ stone-throwing attack on Catholics attending Mass in the Israeli city of Rehovot last month has drawn a rebuke from Church authorities.
“It is sad that people in prayer, for [the] most part, women working in Rehovot Jewish homes, were the victims of a hail of stones,” said Bishop William Hanna Shomali, an auxiliary bishop of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
The faithful were attending Mass May 28 in the courtyard of the small chapel of the Community of St. Therese of Lisieux. The Catholic community in Rehovot, located 30 miles northwest of Jerusalem, is mainly composed of migrant workers from Africa, India, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka, as well as university students.
A group of Jewish boys about 14 years old hurled stones at the large congregation. The stones “did hit a few of the people although again thank the Lord no one was seriously hurt,” the Saint James Vicariate for Hebrew-speaking Catholics reported.
Bishop Shomali expressed his anguish at the attack and his solidarity with the victims, the Latin Patriarchate reported. He said there is a need for a concerted effort to educate youth to help them grow in mutual respect for others’ traditions and to understand the beliefs of other faiths.
“Once again, we draw attention to the culture of contempt for others that exists in some Israeli circles, and the need to find solutions to cure society of radicalism and intolerance,” he said.
The bishop noted that while the youths were only 14 years old, “adults and teachers” who influence them should take responsibility for their formation.
Father Eric Wyckoff, S.D.B., the outgoing chaplain of the community, presided at the Mass with other concelebrating priests: Fr. Matthew Coutinho, the incoming chaplain; and Fr. David Neuhaus, the Latin Patriarchal Vicar and diocesan official responsible for migrants in Israel.
The worshippers who came under attack were in the courtyard because the chapel interior was too small to accommodate their numbers.
The youths began throwing small pebble-sized stones into the courtyard. Then they hurled bigger stones and neighbors called the police. After the Mass the faithful collected some of the stones and placed them at the foot of the cross on the altar.
The vicariate for Hebrew-speaking Catholics said that in light of the event it becomes urgent for the community to find a bigger hall to accommodate the faithful. Rent in the area is “exorbitant” and the vicariate appealed for benefactors to fund the effort.
Christians and their institutions in Israel have suffered from intolerance and attacks. Properties have been vandalized with anti-Christian slogans, including Catholic and Orthodox monasteries and convents as well as Baptist churches. Some attacks have affected religious sites intimately connected with Christian history.
In June 2015 an arson attack damaged the Church of the Multiplication, which is located on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus Christ fed thousands of people through the miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes.
Many Christians in Israel are concerned that their position will suffer due to an increase in extremism and a decay in moral and cultural values.