Suspected arson on Church of the Multiplication in the Galilee.
(photo credit: BEN HARTMAN)
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein on Monday overturned the Tax Authority’s decision to deny the Galilee-based Church of the Loaves and Fishes compensation for severe damage caused in a June arson attack.
Two Jewish extremists were indicted in July for the crime.
As well as destroying part of the holy site’s roof and gutting large parts of the building, the arsonists sprayed graffiti on one of the walls of the church which read, “Idol worship will be destroyed,” a reference to the opinion of some that Christianity is akin to idolatry.
According to the law, the Property Tax Fund of the Tax Authority provides compensation to anyone suffering injury or damages as a result of war, terrorism or hate crimes relating to the Israel-Arab conflict or on the basis of ethnic-national background.
Two weeks ago, however, the Tax Authority said that the incident in question did not fall under this category, arguing instead that the crime was based on religious hatred and not the Israel-Arab conflict. It therefore rejected the church’s request for compensation.
The Christian leadership turned to President Reuven Rivlin, who visited the damaged church in August, for assistance in the matter, and the director-general of the President’s Office contacted cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit to intervene.
The Tax Authority eventually turned to the attorney-general to rule on the matter.
On Monday, Weinstein ruled that, after examining the indictment against the two extremists, he was of the opinion that the attack was ideologically based within the Israel- Arab conflict, and ordered that compensation be paid to the church.
The Assembly of Catholic Bishops in Israel welcomed the attorney-general’s decision, however it drew attention to the initial rejection of compensation, and also mentioned the 47 Christian schools’ ongoing struggle for the restoration of funds cut by the Education Ministry in recent years.
“We welcome the decision of the Israeli attorney-general to offer compensation to the Benedictine Monastery (Church of Loaves and Fishes) in Tabgha, which was torched last June 18th by terrorists affiliated with radical right-wing in Israel,” the statement read.
“While we are glad for this just decision and wish to see it implemented in near future, we urge the Israeli authorities to offer just solutions to various causes, including that of the Christian schools which continues waiting for a just solution despite the passing of over 20 days since the beginning of the strike protesting cuts in [school] budgets by the Israeli Education Ministry.”