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Jewish extremists torch revered Christian site in northern Israel

June 18, 2015 2:41 P.M. (Updated: June 19, 2015 3:44 P.M.)
The attack totally destroyed an external atrium of the shrine, which is where Christians believe Jesus fed the 5,000 in the miracle of the five loaves and two fish.(AFP/Menahem Kahana)
TABGHA, Israel (AFP) -- A suspected arson attack damaged a revered Christian shrine in northern Israel overnight, police said Thursday, as a church adviser pointed the finger at Jewish extremists.

The Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha on the shores of the Sea of Galilee is where many Christians believe Jesus fed the 5,000 in the miracle of the five loaves and two fish.

"During the night a fire broke out at the Tabgha church," a police statement said, indicating that police and fire service investigators were examining the scene.

"Graffiti in Hebrew was found on the wall of the church."

A member of the Roman Catholic Benedictine order, which manages the site, said one of the buildings within the compound was completely destroyed in the blaze but the church itself was not damaged.

The Hebrew graffiti, which was found on another building within the complex, was part of a common Jewish prayer which says "idols will be cast out" - or destroyed, an AFP correspondent reported.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said two people who were in the compound at the time were taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation.

"There's a strong possibility that it wasn’t an accident," Rosenfeld told AFP.

Father Matthias said an external atrium was "totally destroyed" in the blaze. "The church, thank God is in good condition," he told AFP.

"We're very happy that nothing happened to the church."

Wadie Abu Nasser, an adviser to the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land, said the apparent arson attack would reverberate throughout the Christian world.

A priest walks past a graffiti reading in Hebrew "idols will be cast out" as he inspects the damage at the Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha, on the shores on the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel, on June 18, 2015.(AFP/ Menahem Kahana)

German envoy 'shocked'

"Israel's global image will be harmed," he told Israeli public radio."When you put one and one together, between the graffiti and the arson, you can reach a conclusion regarding the potential suspects."

Tabgha was subjected to a previous attack in April 2014 in which church officials said a group of religious Jewish teenagers had damaged crosses and attacked clergy.

There has been a long line of attacks on Christian and Muslim holy places in Israel, in which the perpetrators are believed to have been Jewish extremists.

"I absolutely condemn such acts," Israel's deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely said in a statement.

German ambassador to Israel Andreas Michaelis said he was "shocked" by the incident. "I strongly condemn this attack and every form of violence" against places of worship or people working in them, he said in a statement.

"Religious institutions must be as well protected in Israel as they are in Germany and Europe."

In April, vandals smashed gravestones at a Maronite Christian cemetery near Israel's northern border with Lebanon.

That incident prompted Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to meet church leaders and pledge a crackdown on religiously inspired hate crime.

A nun inspects the damage at a room located on the complex of the Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha, on the shores on the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel, on June 18, 2015, in the aftermath of a suspected arson attack. (AFP/Menahem Kahana)
Paul / South Africa
and there I thought Jesus would come down with a hose pipe and prevent any damage to his church ?
18/06/2015 18:05
Outlier / USA
Shameful act.
18/06/2015 18:06
No proof yet as to / who did it and their identity
Would you be shocked to find out it was an Arab?!
18/06/2015 18:46
Tobias / USA
If Jews were actually involved, rather than framed by Muslims, then
It is very sad that Jews would even rarely act a little like Muslims, and
At least the criminals did not murder or terrorize like Palestinians !!
18/06/2015 21:10
Randa / Berouti
Northern Israel??? "Israel" ?????????
It is called P A L E S T I A N !
يقطع الجهل
18/06/2015 21:36
Julie / USA
"Israel's global image will be harmed," - i'd say that's putting it lightly. israel will be deeply hated worldwide for such criminal disrespect, especially by its majority-christian allies. utterly amazing how israel is consistently the #1 master champion at shooting themselves in the foot.
19/06/2015 00:49
Legal Eagle / Australia
Where are the accusations of "anti-Christian"? If it had been a synagogue it would have been trumpeted around the world as an anti-semitic act, and they would have expected the world to condemn it. Netanyahu is notably silent - no surprise there from the biggest hypocrite on the planet.
19/06/2015 01:00
Stephan / Canada
I see the Hasbarabots have been given their assignment on this story - to accuse the Muslims of destroying this Christian holy site. These racist vermin have the IQ's of gerbils.
19/06/2015 05:00
Outsider / EU
Tobias: so even when the Palestinians are innocent, they are guilty, huh? The church had already been attacked by Israelis in April 204.
19/06/2015 09:54
@ Randa / Tobias of the USA
- Neither Israel, Samaria, Nor Judea Is "Palestinian", and
if Palestinians are the heirs of the ancient Philistines, then
their land was/is the Gaza Strip and the areas around it !!
However, they can get a little more than they have now
(Areas A/B and Gaza) through Negotiations with Israel.
19/06/2015 14:02
Rosa Parks / Paraguay
@ No proof yet as to / who did it and their identity - It is believed to be extremist settlers. Questions is where do the settlers learn their behaviour, what is their country of origin? Sad to see a church in the US was also targeted.
19/06/2015 14:34
Tobias / USA
It seems that Yitzhar residents are the Jewish equivalent of "extremists".
At least they are just vandals, rather than murderers and terrorists,
like their Muslim equivalents aligned with Hamas, Islamic Jihad,
al-Aqsa Brigade, PRC, PFLP, Hezbollah, etc., etc. !!
19/06/2015 16:29
@ Legal / USA
Netanyahu and other Jewish leaders were Not "notably silent", and seek to punish those responsible !!
However, Orthodox Christians of the Middle East endure enthic cleansings and murder, instead of just "anti-Christian" accusations. And,
These despicable acts are almost always done by Muslims !!
19/06/2015 16:40
Nadia / USA
Judge not, lest you be judge.Did not Jesus bring down The Holy Temple as he said he would? The temple were full of money changers, did Jesus overturned the tables? And the high Jewish priests were charging for Baths, before you can go into the temple during the holidays. Did they have Jesus killed?
20/06/2015 22:46
Colin Wright / USA
To @: 'if Palestinians are the heirs of the ancient Philistines...' Most of them are not, so what would be the case if they were is largely a moot point. The Palestinians are largely the descendants of the Jews of ancient Palestine. That fact may be awkward, but it is a fact.
21/06/2015 01:46
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