President Reuven Rivlin
President Reuven RivlinYonatan Sindel/Flash 90

President Reuven Rivlin spoke by phone Thursday with Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem, and expressed his sadness and shock at the arson and graffiti attack on a building within the Greek Orthodox compound on Mount Zion.

"It is inconceivable that an act like this could happen in a house of prayer, this is a heinous crime, there must be an investigation and those responsible must be brought to justice," Rivlin said. "Such criminals not only threaten to set fire to places of worship holy to all of us, but ignite the regional powder keg upon which we all sit."

The President added, "The protection and conservation of the holy sites, both those holy for us and those holy for others, is our obligation as a state and as a society, and we cannot allow such attacks to sabotage the common fabric of our lives here.  We all have a responsibility to put an end to these terrible acts."

The Patriarch thanked the President for his words, and expressed great appreciation for his concern.  He said, "Our mission is to act to bring an end to such acts, in all areas of the Land of Israel."

Police announced Thursday morning that arsonists had set fire to an annex of a Greek Orthodox Seminary just outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City, and scrawled "graffiti insulting Jesus" on the building.