Condemnation of the suspected arson at a Galilee church on Thursday morning continued to pour in on Thursday afternoon.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), said that the action was “a product of the xenophobia which increasingly dominates our society, including the religious sector.
“I call the government and the police to follow a 'zero tolerance' policy against the perpetrators and instigators alike,” said Eckstein. At the same time, rabbis must break their silence and denounce these anti-Jewish phenomena.”
Eckstein was only one of many voices in Israel and the Jewish world condemning the alleged arson and desecration of the Tabgha church on the shores of the Kinneret earlier Thursday.
The B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem also expressed outrage at the incident.
In a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, B'nai B'rith World Center Chairman Dr. Haim V. Katz and director Alan Schneider called on the Israeli government to “show zero tolerance for hate crimes directed against any religious institution and to initiate legislative amendments that would impose long mandatory sentences for all convicted perpetrators.”
The letter said that Katz will personally convey to Pope Francis the World Center's indignation at the attack during a meeting next week at the Vatican with a visiting B'nai B'rith leadership delegation.
Also condemning the incident was the Conference of European Rabbis.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the organization's chair, said “the continuous attacks against houses of worship, in the state of Israel, undermine the very foundation the Jewish State was built on. The CER calls on the Israeli police to use all of its resources to arrest and punish these criminals.”
Police have so far arrested 16 individuals in connection with the fire. Police released no details about the arrests, other than to say that they were residents of communities in the Samaria region.
The suspects were later released without charge.