Suspected arson on Church of the Multiplication in the Galilee.
(photo credit: BEN HARTMAN)
Eyal Reuveni was sentenced to four years in prison by the Nazareth District Court on Tuesday for the arson of a world famous church in June 2015.
Reuveni was also fined NIS 50,000 in compensation to the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, located at Tabgha, on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee.
At his sentencing, the court said it wanted “to emphasize... that with crimes... with an ideological background, including harming a religious institution, there is damage beyond the damage to property which, heaven forbid, could lead to the loss of life and to igniting nationalistic fires between different groups.”
The same court convicted him in July, and acquitted co-defendant Yehuda Asraf, noting that despite some substantial evidence, there was too much doubt for a conviction.
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) attributed the burning of the church
to members of a radical Jewish “organization which... has the goal of uprooting the foundations of democratic rule in the State of Israel.”
The case against Reuveni, 22, included video and DNA evidence, despite efforts he made to conceal his appearance during the arson.
Further, Reuveni refused to explain his side to police, waiting until trial to make a defense, which the court viewed as a suspicious move designed to allow him to invent the optimal alibi after having viewed all of the prosecution’s evidence.
Reuveni wrote on the church “Their gods will be destroyed,” in a quotation from the Jewish Aleinu prayer.
In contrast, Asraf, 21, was not accused of the arson itself, but of lending his car to Reuveni to perpetrate the crime.
While the court said there was some expert evidence against Asraf and that his alibi was full of holes, it found that the evidence did not prove conclusively that Asraf knew that Reuveni would use his car to perpetrate a crime.
One month after the attack, most of a Palestinian family was burned to death in a Jewish terrorist attack in Duma, 25 km. southeast of Nablus. Amiram Ben Uliel was indicted for that arson in January 2016 and his trial is ongoing.