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Israel's Holocaust memorial vandalized with anti-Zionist graffiti

Police inspect anti-Zionist graffitit on the Yad Vashem memorial
Israeli police inspect anti-Zionist Hebrew graffiti, some thanking Hitler for the Holocaust, on Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust museum compound June 11, 2012 in Jerusalem. Getty

(CBS News) JERUSALEM - Vandals have spray painted anti-Zionist graffiti on the walls of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, one of Israel's most sacred institutions. Police suspect ultra-Orthodox Jewish militants because the slogans were in Hebrew and one was signed: "World Ultra-Orthodox Jewry."

"Hitler, thank you for the Holocaust," reads one slogan, while another says: "Jews, wake up, the evil Zionist regime doesn't protect us, it jeopardizes us."

Many ultra-Orthodox Jews are anti-Zionist because they believe that a Jewish state can only be established by the Messiah under the laws of the Torah (the Five Books of Moses). They see modern-secular Zionism as an abomination.

Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev tells CBS News he is "shocked and dazed by this callous expression of burning hatred against the Zionists and Zionism." He calls the vandalism a "very grave crossing of a red line."

Other officials say the graffiti desecrates the memory of the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

It is the latest in a long string of incidents of vandalism blamed on the ultra-Orthodox, who have sharpened the religious-secular divide in Israel. Last week, authorities blamed ultra-Orthodox Jews for destroying mosaics at a 4th century synagogue in Galilee. Some of the Hebrew-language graffiti said it had been scrawled in retaliation for Israeli archaeologists disturbing ancient Jewish graves.

The vandalism has increased resentment among Israel's secular majority, which is already angry that tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva (seminary) students are exempt from the nation's military draft.

In addition, religious institutions receive massive financial aid from the state. The ultra-Orthodox make up only about 10 percent of the population, and many Israelis feel they get more than their share of the national pie, while not sharing the burden of national service.

This story was filed by CBS Radio News correspondent Robert Berger.
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