An arsonist attempted on Sunday to set fire to the Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives.
The church is built on the site where the four gospels record Jesus praying in agony prior to his arrest and crucifixion.
The assailant poured a flammable liquid on the ground and ignited it, but managed only to char a bit of the mosaic floor and burn a couple pews before a church guard stopped him and Israeli firefighters arrived and put out the flames.
Jerusalem Police officials said that a preliminary investigation points to a criminal act by a disturbed individual.
But the Palestinian Authority and Roman Catholic representatives seemed anxious to point an accusatory finger at the Jews in general.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas called the assailant a “terrorist Israeli settler” (which is what he considers all Jews living in Jerusalem), and said he holds the Israeli government directly responsible for such hate crimes. (Abbas did not address the ongoing mistreatment of Christians in territories under his authority.)
A spokesman for the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries demanded that the Israeli authorities conduct a “serious investigation, especially with regard to motive, because if the motive is truly suspected to be racist, I believe many conclusions should be drawn.”
Signaling that he already suspects the motive to be “Israeli racism,” the Catholic spokesman added that “it seems people here don’t really promote coexistence based on mutual respect of all faithful in the Holy Land.”
Many of the local Arab and Arabic-speaking Christians we’ve spoken to say the exact opposite, and recognize the Jewish state as the sole safe haven for Christians in the Middle East. For example, see: