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2 Suspects Held in Church Arson

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Two suspects have been detained by police in connection with the suspected arson that completely destroyed the Baptist Church in downtown Jerusalem Friday morning leaving only a skeleton frame of structure stranding. No details of the two suspects were provided.

Premier Menachem Begin, reacting to the reported arson, said that “if it was arson, it was a malicious crime that should be condemned in the strongest terms.” Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek said he hoped the incident was not arson. Interior and Religious Affairs Minister Yosef Burg visited the church and told the pastor that “we are very unhappy about what happened” and are “always disturbed about such incidents in Jerusalem, a city of peace.”

According to reports, the blaze in the church, which was built in 1933, began shortly after midnight. Police were reported to have later discovered kerosene or gasoline floating on the water left by the fireman. An adjoining building was saved from damage or destruction. But damage to the church was estimated at $50,000.

The church is led by Rev. Robert Lindsey, an old friend of Israel who has resided here since 1939 after immigrating here from Norman, Okla. The church has frequently been the target of anti-missionary harassment, although it has never engaged in missionary activities.

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