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For Immediate Release:  June 19, 2015

Contact: Rabbi Leonard Gordon, Interfaith Partners for Peace
lgordon613@gmail.com; 617-332-7770

Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths, peaceful.  PROVERBS 3:17

An Interfaith response to the arson at the Church of the Multiplication

              This spring a group of Ministers and Rabbis, organized by Interfaith Partners for Peace, travelled together to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  We sought out shared places of sanctity in the Holy Land and points of light where Israelis and Palestinians meet and work towards reconciliation and shared goals.  

One highlight of the trip was a day spent in the Galilee visiting Churches and Ancient Synagogues that speak to our common heritage.   On April 29 we were hosted at the Church of the Multiplication (Tabgha) where we reflected on the meaning of miracles and multi-layered nature of holy sites.  The modern church is built over the site of a  fifth-century Byzantine church on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

            On June 18 fires were deliberately set at the Church, damaging both the interior and exterior; prayer books and Bibles were burnt and rooms set aside for pilgrims and tourists were destroyed.   Those who set the fire spray painted a message in Hebrew on a wall announcing their intention to uproot the worship places of other religions.  They tagged their act with an ancient condemnation of idolatry, going against centuries of Jewish interpretation that protects Christianity and Islam from the charge of idolatry and acting in defiance of Israel's commitment to protect all religious institutions.   

            Unfortunately this is one of a number of attacks against churches, mosques and monasteries in Israel in recent years and despite many arrests, few have been convicted.    We call on the Government of Israel to realize the gravity of this crime and do its upmost to find and prosecute those responsible.  We also call on all parties in the area to educate their young people on the value of religious pluralism and respect for the mosaic that is religious life in the State of Israel.  We share the sadness of all those who hold this site sacred.  

            May we soon see peace and mutual understanding flourish.  

Rabbi Leonard Gordon
Dr. Peter Pettit                
Co-Chairs, Interfaith Partners for Peace


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