Dozens of Graves Vandalized at War Cemetery in Israel

Credit: Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Credit: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Someone vandalized over forty tombstones in the Haifa War Cemetery in Haifa, Israel. The damage was discovered last Friday.

Some of the gravestones were knocked down and others were covered with graffiti. Several had swastikas painted on them. Three graves were completely destroyed. Over 40 graves in all were damaged.

The Templar Cemetery which adjoins the British cemetery had several gravestones vandalized as well. It recently had some of its graves vandalized in 2017.

Police did not have any suspects immediately and were investigating the vandalism as a hate crime.

Credit: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying that the Israeli government takes the desecration very seriously. He said that Israel owed the veterans a debt for liberating them from Ottoman rule. He promised to do everything possible to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice while calling the desecration of graves an “abhorrent crime.”

The cemetery is the final resting place for over 300 graves of British, American, Canadian and Indian soldiers along with soldiers from former British colonies. The soldiers in the cemetery were fatalities of both World Wars.

Employees at the cemetery were not certain when the acts occurred. An employee of the cemetery who had worked there for 30 years could not understand why someone would do such a thing. “Why would anyone want to hurt a place like this? I don’t understand it at all.”

Credit: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

The Israeli Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the actions of the vandals. They condemned the acts as a hate crime. The ministry called for a “swift and successful conclusion” to the investigation into the criminal acts.

Haifa was captured in 1918 by the Mysore and Jodhpur Lancers on September 23, 1918. The 33 Combined Clearing Hospital was moved to the town on October 15, 1918. The Haifa War Cemetery was used primarily for hospital burials.

During World War II, Haifa was concerned a strategic asset due to its deep water harbor and airfield along with being the railway terminus from Egypt and the terminus of the Kirkuk-Haifa oil pipeline. The town was used as one of the main supply bases and arms depots for the Middle East. A large naval depot also was based in Haifa Bay. The cemetery was used in WWII until the new cemetery was opened at Khayat Beach.

Haifa War Cemetery has 305 burials from WWI. 86 of those have not been identified. There are 36 burials from WWII.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has already begun restoration efforts at the site. The Israeli Foreign Ministry commended their commitment and actions to restore the cemetery to its former state.

Credit: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

UK Ambassador to Israel Neil Wigan expressed his horror over the crimes via Twitter. Yuval Rotem,

Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs described himself as being “shocked and appalled” at the vandalism. He pledged that Israel is “forever committed” to honoring the memories soldiers who sacrificed their lives fighting in Israel.

Another Article From Us: Archaeologists Uncover Remains of 110 Soldiers & Artifacts From WWI Battlefield

Haifa is the third largest city in Israel. It is set on top of Mount Carmel and is known as “Israel’s San Francisco.” It is unusual for the mix of Jews and Arabs peacefully living together.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE