Abbot René Hascoët the fifth Abbot of the Trappist Abbey of Latrun with Caritas Jerusalem’s secretary general Mrs. Claudette Habecsh.

Representatives from Caritas Jerusalem, the Pontifical Mission and the Secretariat de la Solidarite visited Latrun Monastery yesterday in the wake of a vandalism attack.

The monastery is 25 km west of Jerusalem.

In the attack Tuesday, vandals spray painted “Jesus is a monkey” and the words “mutual responsibility” along with the names of evacuated illegal settler outposts Upper Migron and Maoz Esther, in large orange letters on the outside of the monastery.

They also burned the wooden door at the monastery entrance, apparently in protest at the evacuation of the Migron settlement outpost on Sunday.

One of the monks, Fr. Louis Wehbe O.C.S.O., said, “Thanks God we were able to extinguish the fire and no one was hurt. I am shocked and grieved by this atrocious act, especially when I read the words “Jesus is a monkey” not only have they attacked a house of worship, but they have desecrated the name of our Lord.”

Police have launched an investigation.

“We are peaceful people; nothing like this has ever happened before,” said Fr Wehbe. “We just hope that the responsible bodies apprehend the culprits not to punish them but to educate them. They should learn that without respect and tolerance we cannot live together in harmony. They had no reason whatsoever to attack us.”

Israeli political and religious leaders have condemned the attack. Rabbis from the Reform Movement conducted a prayer service at the monastery in protest at the attack.  On a solidarity visit, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said, “This act of terrorism against you harms not only the people of the monastery but also the Jewish people and the State of Israel.”

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal condemned the vandals Tuesday saying  it was “only another in a long series of attacks against Christians and their places of worship.”

The monastery was established in December 1890, at Latrun by French, German and Flemish monks of the Trappists from Sept-Fons Abbey in France, at the request of Monseigneur Poyet of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The monastery is dedicated to Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows.  It is the only Trappist monastery in the Middle East.

Caritas team hopes that the 18 monks who permanently live there will go on with their lives of prayers and worship unperturbed by extremist groups.