Historic Church in Israel’s Galilee Damaged in Arson Attack

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An arson attack gutted a historic church in Israel located on a spot where Christians believe Jesus performed a biblical miracle, the latest act of vandalism on a non-Jewish house of worship.

The Roman Catholic Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha, located on the Sea of Galilee site where Christian texts say Jesus fed thousands with just a few loaves and fish, was also spray-painted with a line in Hebrew from a Jewish prayer calling for the destruction of false idols.

“This morning’s outrageous arson attack on a church is an attack on us all,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an e-mail statement. “In Israel, freedom of worship is one of our core values and is guaranteed under the law.”

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said more than one suspect appears to have carried out the arson, and several lines of inquiry are being pursued. Netanyahu ordered the Israel Security Agency, better known as Shin Bet, to aid the investigation.

“In the last three years we have had more than 50 attacks against Christian institutions in Israel, so there is somebody, or a group of extremists -- sure, a small group, but an active group -- that works against the Christian people,” church leader Father Matthias Karl told Israel Radio.

Several mosques in Israel and the West Bank have also been hit by vandalism perpetrated by suspected Jewish extremists over the past few years.