Christians are having a rough time in many parts of the world but who would have thought that this could conceivably happen in the Holy Land?
At least a spark of it has recently taken place in Israel, when Benzi Gopstein publicly advocated the destruction of Israel’s Christian churches. Mr Gopstein, the leader of Lehava – a group infamous for its virulent campaigns against relationships between Arab men and Jewish women – seems unperturbed at the possibility of being arrested in the wake of Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement of a crack-down on ‘Jewish terror’.
Instead, he blatantly urged the same government to expel Christian places of worship from the Holy Land. Asked if the government should set fire to churches – as hard-line Jewish extremists have done in recent times – he replied: ‘Not burn. They need to take them out. We don’t have a place for churches here. It’s Jewish Law. This is what God told us.’
Mr Gopstein, forty-six, a religious settler from Kiryat Arba on the outskirts of the Palestinian city of Hebron, was addressing an explosive topic at a sensitive time. The authorities, driven by revulsion over a fire-bomb attack perpetrated by far-right settlers that killed a Palestinian child in the West Bank village of Duma recently, and the subsequent death of the father, have disclosed plans to detain Jewish militants without trial, a measure long applied to Palestinian suspects.
Mordechai Meyer, eighteen, was ordered to be detained for six months for activities that were said to include suspected involvement in a fire that badly damaged the Church of Loaves and Fishes on the banks of the Sea of Galilee.
Mr Gopstein said his organisation did not carry out church attacks, but he admitted he could be arrested soon, even though Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence service, has decided there are no grounds for outlawing his group. ‘If they arrest me, I’m ready. It’s not the first time,’ he said.
Such men are dangerous, even if they do not commit such acts. Their responsibility is as great as those who carry them out. Preachers of terror should have no place in a civilised society. We must ensure that they are prevented from radicalising their followers lest the world becomes a more perilous place to inhabit.
One cauldron of fire leads to another. We can ill afford the emergence of another ISIS motivated by religious hatred. God forbid!