Israeli police have reportedly made arrests in the burning of the Church of the Multiplication, in Tabgha on the Sea of Galilee, is where Jesus multiplied five loaves of bread and two fish to feed 5,000 of his followers. The church houses the block of limestone that is venerated as the stone on which the meal created by Jesus was laid. The reported arrest of Jewish religious students reminds everyone that such destructive extremism is not confined to Islam. While the world condemns ISIS for destroying ancient churches and sites, these Jewish students have actively sought to put their own religion in the same disgraceful company. The fire was set on June 18 and destroyed much of the interior of the monastery and the roof. The attackers left graffiti scrawled in red Hebrew lettering on a wall outside the Roman Catholic church read, “Idols will have their heads cut off.”
One has to ask (as with Islamic extremists) where these reported students are learning such hatred. After the fire, sixteen yeshiva students, reportedly West Bank settlers, were detained but later released. Some sites are stating that three students have been charged, but the government has lowered an effective gag order on the case. One site however has identified the men as Yinon Reuveni, Mordechai Gedalia Margalit, and Yehuda Yedidia Asraf. The site is seeking to defy the gag order but the names of these men are not confirmed and have not appeared on other sites.
I am unclear why the intelligence services would withhold the names of the arrested individuals. Clearly, their families and associates know that they have been arrested. The public has a right to know where these students were raised and taught in such extremist views. To its credit, the government made this case a priority and worked quickly to carry out arrests. Israel has a large secular community and has protected sites of other religions. The government however would serve the public interest (and its own commitment to maintaining diverse faiths) by greater transparency in this case and these arrests.