Unidentified vandals have desecrated the tomb of Talmudic sage Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel in Kafr Kanna, shattering iron bars at the entrance to the structure and setting it alight.
An official at the Tourism Ministry, which is responsible for maintaining holy sites, said the vandalism probably took place some time during the past two weeks, during Pessah.
The entrance to the site and the sign over it were partially blackened by smoke from the fire, and mounds of garbage were strewn nearby.
The interior of the tomb was also damaged, including the stairwell leading down to the subterranean room containing the sage's grave. Several of the stone steps and the adjoining wall were smashed.
The grave itself was undamaged.
The site, located near Nazareth, is the final resting place of one of the most prominent rabbis of the Talmudic era. It consists of a small stone building situated over an underground burial cave.
Repairs will begin on Sunday, the official told The Jerusalem Post, adding that it has been frequently attacked by area residents, as often as twice a month.
In October 2000, the site suffered extensive damage when local Arabs set the tomb on fire.
Rabban 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 of his most well-known teachings, found in the Ethics of the Fathers he said, "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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