A Christmas tree outside of the Catholic Church in the northern Arab city of Sakhnin was set on fire, late Tuesday night, December 29, and the words “Only Allah’s Messenger Mohammed” were spray-painted on the exterior wall of the holy site, Al-Ittihad reported on Wedneday. This was the second time a Christmas tree displayed outside of the city’s Catholic church was torched in the last few days and the third torching of a Christmas tree in the town in less than a week. A previous tree standing outside the Catholic church as well as the one in front of the Greek Orthodox church in the city had been torched overnight between Friday and Saturday and were discovered early Saturday morning, December 26.
Wadi Abu Nassar, a spokesperson for the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, criticized the torching and expressed hope that “political leaders will speak against this act” and that the police will bring the arsonists to justice, Al-Ittihad reported.
Following the double arson in Sakhnin over last weekend, Joint List leader MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) visited the city and condemned the incident, calling it a “despicable act that attacks the Christmas spirit and the spirit of unity in Arab society” in Israel. “Our solidarity is stronger than anyone who tries to harm it. We will put new trees in place and make sure that the criminals are sentenced,” he added. The Sakhnin municipality had replaced both destroyed trees on Saturday evening.
Hadash mayor of the city, Dr. Safuat Abu-Riya told Al-Ittihad that the attack was an attempt to cause divisions between the city’s Christian and Muslim residents. According to a joint-communique issued by Hadash and the Communist Party branches in Sakhnin, “Sinful and malicious people try every year to sow discord and division among the residents of the city. The attempt to burn the Christmas tree is a malicious act, and we condemn it.”
Yet a fourth Christmas tree, this one in the southern city of Arad in the eastern Negev, was sat ablaze by unknown culprits on Wednesday, December 30. This last tree had been erected in the city center to honor Novy God (the Russian New Year). Many of the residents of Arad emigrated from the former Soviet Union and many of them celebrate the holiday of Novy God.
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