Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

22 Jun, 2015

Thousands rally against church arson by Jewish extremists

JERUSALEM, June 21 (Xinhua) — Thousands of Christians rallied Sunday afternoon outside the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish in northern Israel, in protest of the arson attack by Jewish extremists last week.

A police spokesperson told Xinhua that some 3,000 people attended the rally at Tabgha on the Sea of Galilee.

They held Vatican flags and crosses, and called on the government and police to do everything possible to apprehend the perpetrators “as soon as possible,” Channel 10 TV reported.

Abbot Gregory Collins, head of the Order of Saint Benedict in Israel, urged people of all faiths to condemned the attack.

“All residents of the area – Christians, Druze, Muslims, and Jews should protest against this deed. But we are Christian and must react like Christians,” Israel’s Ynet news site quoted him as saying.

“We are in the place where Christ performed his miracles, and we the monks have hosted invalids here for years. We will replace the terrible fire with the fire of God’s love and forgiveness,” he added.

The fire early on Thursday morning destroyed bibles and prayer books and caused extensive damages to an office for pilgrims, a meeting room and a souvenir shop.

A Hebrew graffiti was spray-painted on a wall of the church. The graffiti was taken from a passage in the Jewish prayer book, calling to destroy worshippers of idols.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin condemned the attack as a “heinous crime.” He added that “such criminals not only threaten to set fire to a place of worship but ignite the regional powder keg upon which we all sit.”

According to Rabbis for Human Rights, an Israeli rights watchdog, since 2009, there have been 43 hate crime attacks against holy sites – including: cemeteries, mosques, churches and monasteries – in Israel, the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The attacks were widely condemned across the political spectrum but suspects are seldom apprehended and tried.

The church marked the site where Christians believe Jesus preformed the miracle of feeding throngs with five loaves of bread and two fish. It is located above a Byzantine-era church on the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel.