Hundreds Protest against Jewish Sect Pilgrimages to Haifa Monastery

Hundreds of Christians, Muslims and Jews protested Sunday at the Christian monastery Stella Maris in Haifa against the recent trend of Jewish pilgrims praying at the site. Hadash-Ta’al chairman, Ayman Odeh, Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman, Hadash chairman and former MK Issam Makhoul and several Hadash and Communist Party of Israel activists participated in the rally. The incidents in Haifa came amid increasing reports of Jews harassing Christians in Jerusalem. 

Hadash solidarity delegation in talks with monks of the Christian monastery Stella Maris in Haifa, June 4, 2023 (Photo: Zo Haderech)

Though the site is linked to the Biblical prophet Elijah, members of a Jewish Hasidic sect say it also is home to the tomb of his disciple the prophet Elisha. The protest came after two other ultra-Orthodox men were filmed praying inside the monastery a couple of weeks.

According to Zo Haderech reports, the Jewish visitors are from a subgroup of the Breslov Hasidic community, the Shuvu Banim sect led by convicted sex offender Rabbi Eliezer Berland. Protesters told journalists that they support coexistence in Haifa, which has a mixed Jewish and Arab population, but that the site is holy to the Christian community. They threatened to expel the Shuvu Bonim members if they again tried to pray at the monastery.

Wadie Abunassar, a spokesman and adviser to churches in the Holy Land, told Ynet website that during the talks with police officers, church officials urged that an end be put to the visits “or things could get out of control.” Abunassar claimed that archaeological explorations have not found any evidence that could be tied to the period that Elijah is believed to have lived.

“Elijah is also important to us,” he said. “Believe me, if we found his tomb, we would give him all due respect.” He warned that the tales of the Shuvu Banim pilgrims could “set the city alight.”

The Stella Maris Monastery is a Catholic holy place for Discalced Carmelite monks, located on the slopes of Mount Carmel in Haifa. The monastery serves as a centre of Carmelite spirituality throughout the world. The symbol of the Order is mounted right above the entrance door. During the erection of the church, friars were assaulted by their neighbors and had to defend their property and the church guests. As a result, the monastery’s ground floor is built out of thick walls with few and small openings covered by bars.