Forest fire in Israel endangers Basilica of the Transfiguration

Jerusalem, Jul 26, 2019 / 02:37 pm (CNA).- A forest fire in the northern region of Israel is threatening the Basilica of the Transfiguration of Christ, according to local reports.

The flames sprang up late Thursday at the foot of the wooded Mount Tabor, where the transfiguration of Christ is believed to have taken place.

Over the past week, dry conditions and heavy winds have made conditions ripe for fires throughout the country. The police do not know the exact cause of the blaze, but they do not suspect arson.

“An additional front of the fire is at the moment advancing toward the church,” said Dudi Peretz, a spokesman for the fire department, according to Agence France-Presse.

“The fire’s centre is far from main roads and the topography of the area and difficulty of access are hindering the work of the firefighting teams.”

Overnight, the monks at the basilica were safely evacuated. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem posted that there have been no deaths associated with the fire so far.

“According to one of the Franciscan friars who lives at Mount Tabor, the fire has been brought under control. The proper authorities will keep monitoring the situation throughout the day,” the post said, asking for continued prayers.

The Franciscans built the Basilica of the Transfiguration of Christ in 1924. The spot, upon Mount Tabor, is where the Gospels record Christ taking three of his disciples – Peter, John, and James. Atop the mountain, he was transfigured before them in heavenly splendor and spoke to the prophets Moses and Elijah, who appeared alongside him.

The basilica receives hundreds of thousands of pilgrims a year and is operated by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, which released a statement on Friday, accusing the government of negligence that led to the fire.

The situation “is a direct consequence of the state's neglect of the basic infrastructure of Mount Tabor,” it said, according to i24 News.

“For years, Christian churches have warned the authorities and demanded a normal water supply to the top of the mountain, as provided by law.”


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