Hundreds protest against targeting of Mar Elias church in Haifa
Jewish extremists in Israel have repeatedly targeted the Mar Elias church and monastery. Most recently, they prayed inside the church, claiming there is a tomb belonging to a Jewish figure in its courtyard, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported.
Palestinian Christian and Muslim citizens of Israel make up a sizable minority of the population in Haifa.
A number of Haifa residents, local leaders and members of the Israeli parliament participated in the protest on Sunday, as did Christian and Muslim clergy, monks at the Mar Elias monastery, and solidarity activists.
The vigil came after Israeli police on Friday arrested and interrogated a young Christian from Haifa, claiming he had physically assaulted Israelis and ejected them from the church on Thursday.
Wadie Abu Nassar, an adviser to various churches in the Holy Land, said there is anger "not only at the visit of some provocateurs to the church, but also at how the Israeli authorities have dealt with these provocations".
"A young Christian who ejected the provocateurs was investigated, while up to this moment there is no information about an investigation into them," he said.
The latest incident comes amid an increase in attacks on Christian and Muslim holy places in occupied East Jerusalem, which Israeli illegally annexed in 1980.
This includes the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound – the third-holiest site in Islam.
"We are against all attacks on sacred places and religious symbols, whatever they may be," said Father Simon Khoury.
"You started in the blessed Al-Aqsa in the month of Ramadan and [with] the attack on those performing itikaf [a Muslim religious practice]. Now, it is our turn."
Muslims and Christians in the Holy Land face many of the same issues and often defend each other's religious rights.
Sheikh Raed Salah, a leader of the Islamic movement in Israel participated in Sunday's protest vigil, saying it was "obligatory to come here".
"We believe that preserving the sanctity of the church is complementary to our role in preserving the sanctity of the mosque," he said.