(JNS.org) An eastern Jerusalem church has come under siege by local Arab residents as a property dispute has devolved into repeated bouts of harassment, theft, and physical violence against church employees and property.
“When we said we would not sell [the church], they decided to take it by force,” Pastor Karen Dunham of the Living Bread International Church told the Jerusalem Post.
Located near the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City, Living Bread is a non-denominational church with offices in Israel, Gaza, and Jericho that seeks to reach out with “humanitarian aid to the poor and the refugees with aid and education,” its website says.
According to Dunham, the church has been attacked by Arab men with knifes, clubs, pepper spray, and gas. The men have destroyed the church’s security cameras and a metal security fence, in addition to threatening to “cut the heads off” two orphans with disabilities.
Dunham has appealed to local police for protection and the arrest of suspects behind the threats and attacks.
“The last couple of weeks is when most of the violence has happened, and now they are not allowing our staff to walk in the street to get to and from work,” she said.
The attacks on the church come amid broader tensions between Jewish and Muslim residents in Jerusalem. Last week, a Palestinian terrorist drove a car into a crowded light rail platform, killing two people (including an infant). In the days following that attack, Arab residents clashed with the Israeli police, which beefed up its presence in the capital.