Christmas Trees Set on Fire in Northern Israel; Police Suspect Arson

One tree was set alight outside the Catholic church and the other in front of the Orthodox church in the northern city Sakhnin

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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A Christmas tree set alight outside a church in Sakhnin, December 26, 2020.
A Christmas tree set alight outside a church in Sakhnin, December 26, 2020.
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

Two Christmas trees erected outside two separate churches in the northern Israeli Arab city of Sakhnin were set on fire, the police said on Saturday as the Christian world celebrates Christmas.

According to the police, one tree was placed outside the Catholic church and the other in front of the Orthodox church in Sakhnin. Both trees were set alight and partially burned.

A Christmas tree set on fire in front of a church in Sakhnin, December 26, 2020.

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Police have collected evidence from both scenes and are investigating the possibility of deliberate arson.

"Israel Police severely views incidents in which religious symbols are violated, and will use all the means at our disposal to bring the perpetrators to justice," the police said in a statement.   

Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the Joint List, an alliance of predominantly Arab parties, later condemned the incidents.

"Torching Christmas trees is a despicable act that harms the Christmas spirit, as well as the unity and comradery in Arab society. Our solidarity is stronger than anyone who tries to hurt it. We'll make sure that the perpetrators are brought to justice," Odeh tweeted.   

In the beginning of the month, a man was arrested on for spilling flammable liquid and setting it alight at the Church of All Nations in Jerusalem, causing minor damage. 

According to the police report, the act caused minor damage to one pew and the mosaic floor. A guard at the scene detained the suspect until police arrived, who arrested him. Police said that a preliminary investigation shows that the suspect had criminal motives. 

The perpetrator, a 49-year-old Jewish resident of Jerusalem, was detained by a security guard until police arrived. According to a later statement, investigators believed the attack had criminal rather than political motives.

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