Christian basilica escapes Mount Tabor blaze thanks to Israeli firemen

The Basilica of the Transfiguration was unharmed by the fire that consumed nearly 500 acres. 

By World Israel News Staff

A fire threatening the church where Christians believe the transfiguration of Jesus took place was successfully put out before causing damage to the shrine, Israeli firefighters said Sunday, according to AFP.

Israeli Fire Department spokesperson Dudi Peretz told AFP that the fire broke out on Thursday on Mount Tabor, where the Basilica of the Transfiguration is located. It was extinguished by late Friday, but “small fires are rekindled every so often and teams at the site are dealing with them.”

The fire consumed 500 acres but “the church was not damaged,” he said.

Record high temperatures, strong winds and unusually dry conditions have set the stage for numerous wildfires across the country. Arson is suspected in several instances but not in the case of the blaze on Mount Tabor, the fire department says.

The basilica, which was built in 1924 by the Roman Catholic Franciscan order, sits on on the wooded mountain in the Lower Galilee in Northern Israel.

Mount Tabor is mentioned in both Jewish and Christian texts. In the former, it’s referenced as the border of the tribes of Zebulun, Issachar and Naphtali. For Christians, it is believed to be the site where Jesus began to radiate light and conversed with Moses and Elijah.

As a result, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visit the church annually.

AFP reports that the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, which oversees Roman Catholic properties in the area, issued a statement on Friday blaming “Israeli authorities of neglecting essential infrastructure at the site, failing to provide a proper water supply.”

“Ensuring the freedom of worship and access to holy sites includes the duty to supply basic services, and safeguard the lives of the monks and visitors there,” the statement read.