JERUSALEM — The burning of two Christmas trees in the early morning of Dec. 26 in the northern Israeli Arab city of Sakhnine was carried out “intentionally and premeditatedly,” said the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land.
The first tree was apparently burned at around 3 a.m. near the entrance to St. Joseph Melkite Catholic Church; three hours later, shortly after a guard left, the Christmas tree in front of the city’s Greek Orthodox church was burned.
“These two incidents indicate that the perpetrators … targeted a Christian religious symbol, and through it they targeted not only Christians, but the entire society,” the Catholic ordinaries said in a statement Dec. 26.
They called on the Israeli security services to treat the incident as “intentional sabotage” and to bring the perpetrators to justice as soon as possible.
In a statement, police said they treat “incidents of damaging religious symbols and severely offending believers very seriously, and will use all tools at its disposal to apprehend the perpetrators.”
Melkite Father Arif Yameen said surveillance cameras showed two young people burning the tree, but said it was not clear who they were and no arrests had been made.
He said the city replaced both trees at its expense and held a tree-lighting ceremony the evening of Dec. 26 with municipal, local and religious leaders present.
“It wasn’t nice to receive the news of the tree burning in the morning, but in the evening when we lit the tree it was prettier than before, and everything has returned to normal,” said Yameen.