Church of Multiplication Severely Damaged by Arsonists

Arsonists attacked the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish at Tabgha at 3:30 this morning. Graffiti left at the site indicates that the attack was perpetrated by religious Jews. Police have arrested and released 16 suspects, all minors from Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The graffiti reads, “The false gods will be eliminated,” a reference to a Jewish prayer and consistent with similar attacks in the past.

The Times of Israel has the most extensive report. The Jerusalem Post provides a 1-minute video of the destroyed building. Prime Minister Netanyahu has condemned the attack, and a Catholic church adviser indicates that pilgrims groups are considering canceling their trips.

The church is most famous for its ancient mosaic of five loaves and two fish. The earliest known record for this location of the miracle dates back to the time of Lady Egeria (381-384) and the first church was built in 350. A century later another building was erected with a mosaic floor covering about 5,400 square feet (500 sq m), half of which is preserved. The present site was rediscovered in 1932 and the current church completed in 1982. We have more photos and information about the historic site of Tabgha here.

HT: Charles Savelle

Tabgha from northwest
Tabgha mosaic of fish and loaves, tb110106544
Mosaic of loaves and fish, 5th century AD Photos from Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, volume 1

4 thoughts on “Church of Multiplication Severely Damaged by Arsonists

  1. Please, we feel bad enough here in Israel about this, please don't make it worse with this post's headline. The church was not destroyed. The sanctuary was spared. As the article you link to says, "No significant damage was inflicted to the church itself, as the fire raged mainly on the roof. Some damage was caused to a book storage room, offices, and an event hall."
    My prayers and sympathy to the Benedictine brothers and their volunteers.

  2. Dina – I've revised the headline. While I don't want to overstate the situation, neither do I want to suggest that the damage was not extensive and very costly. The intention of the arsonists was surely to destroy the church. Sadly, attacks on church buildings by religious Jews has a long history in modern Israel.

  3. Thanks, Dr. Bolen. Yes, the physical damage was in the millions of shekels, to the gift shop and more. And the emotional damage is heavy too. And holy books hundreds of years old went up in smoke. And an elderly monk hospitalized from smoke inhalation. Yes, you are right. It is absolutely scandalous that the price tag young people can get away with such crimes in the last few years.

  4. Dina has emailed a link to a post on Facebook by the Jewish Center for Jewish-Christian Relations. They argue that instead of the standard condemnations, the state of Israel needs to take real action, including prosecuting offenders and educating the public. They note that not one person has been indicted for dozens of attacks against Christians. The value of education must not be underestimated either. Just as some Arab children are indoctrinated to hate Jews, so some Jewish children are indoctrinated to hate Christians. Ignoring it won't make it go away.

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