Menahem Kahana / AFP – Getty Images
A Trappist monk stands between graffiti reading in Hebrew, “Jesus is a monkey” (L) and “mutual guarantee, Ramat Migron and Maoz Ester” (West Bank settlements) (R), which was sprayed on the wall of the Latrun Monastery between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv on Tuesday after unknown people set the monastery’s door ablaze.
By NBC News’ Alastair Jamieson and wire reports
Hebrew graffiti, including the phrase “Jesus is a monkey,” was daubed on the walls of a monastery near Jerusalem early Tuesday in what police suspect was a so-called ‘Price Tag’ attack by right-wing, pro-settler extremists, according to reports.
Vandals torched the wooden door of the Latrun Monastery and spray-painted the graffiti on the holy site’s stone walls, Israeli police said.
“Police have opened a special investigation into the incident,” Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
Israeli security officials had expressed concern about possible acts of retribution by a suspected settler vigilante campaign known as ‘Price Tag’ for Sunday’s court-ordered eviction of 50 families from Migron, a settler site near the West Bank city of Ramallah. Police believe the incident was part of the campaign, the Times of Israel and the Jerusalem Post reported.
Rosenfeld said “Migron” and the words “Jesus is a monkey” were among the phrases scrawled at the monastery, which is located inside Israel but not far from the occupied West Bank.
‘Price Tag’ incidents are so-called because the extremists believe their attacks are extracting a price from Palestinians for their action in evicting settlers.
Jerusalem Post reporter Melanie Lidman posted pictures of the graffiti on Twitter.
She reported that, following the evacuation of Migron on Sunday, Judea and Samaria District police commander Amos Yaakov said: “I assume that there will be an increase in ‘Price Tag’ incidents, and we have carried out preparations for this.”
The attack happened at around 3:30 a.m. local time Tuesday (8:30 p.m. ET Monday) and was quickly discovered by monks, who notified police, she reported.
The report added that the monastery was a way station for pilgrims on their way from Jaffa to Jerusalem in the 19th century, and that the current building was built in 1890.