Anonymous individuals on Saturday night set fire to a tent containing Torah books next to the settlement of Karmei Tzur in Gush Etzion. No one was hurt, but the books were heavily damaged. Judea and Samaria District Police opened an investigation and said footsteps believed to belong to suspects led to the adjacent Palestinian town of Halhul.
According to locals, the tent serves as a place of prayer and other activities for the area's children. Karmei Tzur residents said arsonists had put the books in a pile and let them on fire. The tent overlooks the spot where the bodies of the three teenagers who were kidnapped and murdered in 2014 were found.
Karmei Tzur residents said they were deeply shocked by the incident and that they felt a red line had been crossed. "It's difficult to accept the fact that in the heart of the country, an incident has occurred that is reminiscent of the darkest history, and we must not forget that less than 100 meters separate the hill and the residents' houses," said a resident. "Reaching there is a dangerous precedent for the future. We must and can put an end to this."
Davidi Perl, head of Gush Etzion Regional Council said images of the fire's aftermath were chilling. "I am certain that Holocaust survivors who went through Kristallnacht and founded Gush Etzion never dreamed this sight of burnt holy books would occur here in Israel under Israeli rule," he said. "The Israeli government must defeat the Arab rampaging that is hurting human life and Israel's holiness."
Education Minister Naftali Bennett said that images of the burnt books "come directly from the darkest days of our people's history. The defense establishment needs to investigate this incident rigorously and bring to justice the terrorists who committed it in the most serious way. This is crossing a red line and we cannot accept it, and we will not ignore it."