On 27 July a delegation of 17 faculty and leading members of the University of Haifa community visited the Church of Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes following an arson and graffiti attack on the church last month. The hate-crime was strongly condemned by Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, and a wide array of voices from within Israeli society.
During the visit, University of Haifa President Amos Shapira said, “the University of Haifa, like most of the Israeli public, sees this as heinous crime. The University condemns this action and as the largest research university in Northern Israel we felt it was important for us to visit the church and stand here with you, the church leaders, and firmly state that this crime violates the basic right granted by one of the founding principles of the State of Israel which is the freedom of worship, and should be condemned.”
The University of Haifa delegation included members of the University Management Team, Executive Committee members and Deans and Faculty members. They met with Father Basilius, who is the Head of the Order managing the Church of Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, as well as Father Dr. Fuzzy Huri, Senior Deputy of the Greek Catholic Church in Israel, and Father Elias Uda, the personal representative of Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.
During the visit, Father Basilius said that, “we suffered from the fire of hate which burned the church, but we also met with a different type of fire; a good fire, one which burns in the heart of people. This is a fire of giving and cooperation. A fire of solidarity amongst different faiths. After the fire we were visited by Jews, Christians and Muslims who only wanted to help. Jewish Rabbis from around the world came to our aid. Our job is to keep the fire of solidarity burning.”
In response to the various hate-crimes that Israel has witnessed in recent weeks, University of Haifa President Amos Shapira stated, “We must do all within our power to reject such behavior and make certain and clear that is unacceptable, unwanted and reprehensible. This visit was important because it makes absolutely clear that these acts of senseless violence are not going to jeopardize the delicate balance we live with in this country, a balance that must be maintained so that we are all able to live here together.”