Jerusalem church arson attack thwarted by alert Jewish neighbours

By staff writers
October 29, 2007

A Christian church in central Jerusalem which is used by several different groups survived an arson attack last week as a result of prompt action by Jewish neighbours who called the emergency services and stopped the potentially lethal fire spreading.

Used by a total of four congregations, the church had been broken into and set alight in three places, but the damage has been described as 'moderate' by observers.

Some furniture was charred by flames and part of the building's floor was damaed, say reports.

However, none of the books or other equipments was damaged, according to American-born pastor Charles Kopp.

In 1982 the church was burnt down by an ultranationalist Jewish group, but it was later rebuilt, Pastor Kopp explained.

He addeded: "We all still need to learn the lessons of tolerance and to accept the different among us. We don't suspect anyone specific but they were extremists for sure.''

"We've had a lot of support from our immediate neighbors. The rabbi of a neighbouring Reform congregation has offered the use of her synagogue for services," said the pastor.

A police investigation is now reported to be underway. A municipal spokesperson said that an attack of this kind was extremely unusual and the suburb generally enjoyed very good community relations.

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