22-year-old Israeli convicted of arson at historic Galilee church


(JTA) — A 22-year-old Israeli man was convicted in the 2015 arson at a historic church in the northern part of the country.

The Nazareth District Court convicted Yinon Reuveni for the attack on the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes in the Galilee, The Times of Israel reported. The Roman Catholic church is built at the site where Christians believe Jesus multiplied bread and fish to feed 5,000 people.

Also Monday, a suspected accomplice, 21-year-old Yehuda Asraf, was acquitted of aiding Reuveni in the attack.

Reuveni was indicted last year for the arson and charged with another one in Jerusalem. According to the indictment, Reuveni committed the church arson due to negative beliefs he held about Christianity, the BBC reported. Reuveni’s lawyer said he would appeal the verdict.

At the time of the attack, graffiti reading “False idols will be smashed” and “pagans” were found on the walls of the church, leading police to believe the fire was set deliberately as part of a hate crime.

The Roman Catholic church, located in the area of Tabgha, is built on the site of a fifth-century church and contains restored mosaic floors from the time period. The attack, which was widely condemned in Israel, did not damage the church but other buildings in the complex were harmed, according to The Times of Israel. Renovations to reopen the complex cost around $1 million.

A third suspect, Moshe Orbach, is awaiting trial, according to The Times of Israel.

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