Thousands of people gathered at the Church of the Multiplication in northern Israel on Sunday to protest the arson attack which took place against the holy site last week.
In the early morning Thursday hours, the church was set on fire and anti-Christian graffiti in Hebrew scrawled on the walls. Political and religious officials from across Israel quickly condemned the attacks, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordering the Shin Bet to launch an investigation and arrest the perpetrators.
No suspects have been arrested as of this time.
Christians from across Israel came together in a show of solidarity near the Sea of Galilee in a national appeal for coexistence.
Shadi Halul, the chairman of the Aramaic Christian Association in Israel called the attacks “abominable…just like any damage to a Jewish holy place would be.”
“We have a shared past and a shared future as well. Those that did this do not represent the Jews and actually hurt the Jews,” Halul stated, as quoted by Walla. “They undermine the Jews’ right to exist here and achieve the opposite result because haters of Israel take advantage of this and use it against the Jews.”
Father Gregory Collins, head of the Order of the Saint Benedict in Israel which runs the church, told those gathered that the attack “is an attack on all those who believe in civilization of love and coexistence.”
Israel’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau condemned the incident in a statement and said the attack is “a black warning sign to the entire world.”
Lau clarified that “this act, which was allegedly committed by radical elements, contradicts the values of Judaism and human ethics.”
The chief rabbi called on community leaders and said it was their duty to “stand on guard so that these radical phenomena will not destroy the relationship of respect between all the religions in Israel. The gentle fabric of these relations must be maintained, and the religions’ leaders have an important role in influencing their community members. They must insist that there will be no offense to any place which is sacred to any religion.”
Two people were injured in the fire, suffering minor burns and smoke inhalation. The fire broke out mostly on the roof of the building and no significant damage was caused to the church itself.
The entrance to the building is believed by Christians to be the location where Jesus multiplied two fish and five loaves to feed 5,000 people.