ISRAEL– The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land (ACOHL) condemns in the strongest terms the recent shocking statements made by Rabbi Benzi Gopstein.
“Christians are blood sucking vampires”, “Christmas has no place in the Holy Land”: the latest statements of Rabbi Gopstein, leader of the anti-assimilation Lehava extremist movement, have not gone unnoticed.
In an article published a few days ago on the Haredi website kooker.co.il, and taken up by the Israeli daily Haaretz, Benzi Gopstein harshly denounces the Christian presence in the Holy Land, accusing it of harboring ambitions of proselytism of Jews and subsequently forcefully exclaimed “Christmas has no place in the Holy Land. “Let us remove the vampires before they once again drink our blood.”
His comments immediately aroused the indignation of the entire Christian community, especially the Catholic leaders of the Holy Land, who made the following statement:
“It is with dismay that the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land read the insulting and totally unacceptable statements of Rabbi Gopstein Benzi.
This year we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Nostra Aetate, a declaration on relations between the Catholic Church and non-Christian religions, first and foremost, Judaism. This historical text, the fruit of the Second Vatican Council, laid the foundations for a necessary and solid dialogue between Jews and Christians, with the characteristics of respect, brotherhood and sincerity.
We, the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land believe in this dialogue, its importance, and its viability and strongly condemn the irresponsible remarks of Rabbi Gopstein; they are an outrage to the same dialogue and the values attached to them.
Four months ago, to no avail, we filed a complaint against Benzi Gopstein. We therefore, once again, make a pressing appeal to the Israeli authorities: the intimidation and recurrent provocations represent a real threat to peaceful coexistence in the country. You must denounce vigorously and take necessary measures in the interest of all citizens.
Christians belong to the Holy Land, and will celebrate Christmas with joy, as they have always done.”
This is not the first provocation of the leader of the Lehava movement. Last August, he did not hesitate to assert that Jewish law advocated destroying idolatry in the land of Israel, and so churches and mosques could be burned. These remarks, made in a context marked by a series of acts of vandalism against Christian buildings, had at the time led the ACOHL to file complaints against Rabbi Gopstein for incitement to hatred.
On Sunday, November 29, a group of Lehava activists demonstrated, outside the Jerusalem YMCA, against holding a Christmas market, denouncing the “murder of Jewish souls”, and demanding that Christians leave the Holy Land.