Jewish graves attack in Belfast - show of unity planned
Politicians and people from the Jewish community are to join in a show of solidarity at Belfast City Cemetery where 13 graves were destroyed in an anti-Semitic attack.
Arrangements for the combined visit are still being finalised, but Belfast councillors have voiced outrage at the desecration, which took place in broad daylight on Friday.
And they have pledged their full support, with efforts already focused on restoring the Jewish plot, which dates back to 1871.
Around eight youths knocked over and smashed headstones. They even tried to get into where the bodies are.
The graves are in a walled-off, often locked section, at the rear of the huge cemetery on the Falls Road.
Michael Black, chairman of the Belfast Jewish Community, said yesterday: "It is important for us to get the cemetery back to normal as soon as possible.
"We have already had letters of support from the parties at Belfast City Hall and I have no doubt they will want to do all they can to help us.
"We have been trying to get the graves cleared, the rest is up to the authorities, so there will be some sort of compromise." Mr Black added that he was hopeful the perpetrators, who climbed over a wall to carry out the attack, will be brought to justice.
"It seems, as far as we can tell, this took place in broad daylight, about 3pm in the afternoon.
"One of the councillors said he had seen someone staggering away from the scene at the time - whether staggering as a result of alcohol or not, I don't know.
"It seems that it was premeditated. They probably had to scale the wall to get in.
"I don't know what was upsetting them, but apart from smashing the headstones they actually tried to get in to the actual graves to where the bodies are.
"I would be confident that they will catch some of them. The police are taking this very seriously."
His comments came as a leading Catholic clergyman described the attack as "shameful" and said people needed to tackle racism and xenophobia.
Bishop Noel Treanor told worshippers at St Peter's Cathedral in the city: "These shameful acts are a blemish on our society."
He said condemnation was not enough.
"What a tragedy and blemish, then, that the long-present, beloved and treasured Jewish families of our community should suffer yet again such actions of disrespect and violence to the memory of their beloved dead and the regrettable outworking of a latent xenophobia that stalks the minds of some."
He said people needed to confront the scourge of race-based hatred.
"Only yesterday a young mother, native of another land and now an admirable fellow citizen of this city and land, told me of how a young child of four had muttered racist and xenophobic sentiments to her child of similar age in a playground," he said.
The Jewish community in Northern Ireland numbers around 80 people.