Unknown vandals desecrated the tomb of talmudic sage Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel, shattering iron bars at the entrance to the structure and setting it alight.
Located in the Israeli Arab village of Kafr Kana, just west of the Golani junction, the tomb is the final resting place of one of the most prominent rabbis of the talmudic era. It consists of a small stone building, which stands over an underground burial cave.
The entrance to the site and the sign hanging over it were partially blackened by smoke as a result of the fire that was set, and mounds of garbage were strewn nearby.
Damage was also inflicted to the interior, including to the stairwell leading down to the subterranean room where the sage's grave is located. Several of the stone steps were smashed, and an adjoining concrete wall was ripped apart.
The grave itself was unharmed, but the surrounding area was despoiled.
According to an official at the Tourism Ministry, which is responsible for maintaining the holy sites, the incident likely took place some time during the past two weeks, in the course of the Passover holiday.
Workers will be sent to the site on Sunday to repair the damage, the official told the Jerusalem Post, adding that the tomb has been the target of regular attacks by local Arabs, often as frequently as twice a month.
In October 2000, the tomb was set ablaze by local Arabs, causing extensive damage to the site.
The police said they would investigate the latest desecration.
Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel served as the Nasi, or leader, of the Jewish people just prior to the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. He was murdered by the Romans, and his tomb has been a popular site for Jewish pilgrims over the centuries.
In one of his more famous teachings, he is quoted in the Ethics of the Fathers as saying, "all my life I have been raised among the Sages, and I have not found anything better for a person than silence. Study is not the primary thing, but action."
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