Jewish arsonist makes unusual confession: 'I didn't think enough'
Yinon Reuveni, who is serving 5.5-year prison sentence for setting fire to the Church of Loaves and Fishes in 2015, expresses remorse for his actions in an effort to ease his conditions; 'I understand the many mistakes I made along the way,' he writes.
The Jewish settler was initially sentenced to four years in prison. He appealed the ruling to the High Court of Justice, which decided to increase his sentence to five-and-a-half years.
Reuveni wrote a letter two months ago, which has only just come to light, expressing remorse. "The years that have passed gave me a lot of time to think, and today I'm in a different place," Reuveni wrote.
"I understand the many mistakes I made along the way, I understand I was with the wrong company, I understand I was pushing the boundaries of the gray area, including by breaking administrative orders," he continued. "Today I see things differently than when I was a teenager, I know reality is more complex and life is not black and white. I caused suffering to my parents, my family, and those around me, and mostly I did a disservice to myself."
A year ago, Reuveni got married in prison at a small wedding that included only first-degree relatives. Since then, he has been asking the Israel Prison Service (IPS) to ease his strict imprisonment conditions so he could have a relationship with his wife.
"There are a lot of examples of Hilltop Youth who were in one place and, after having started a family, are now in a different place," Reuveni wrote, referring to extremist right-wing settler youth who live in illegal outposts. "They became productive members of society, and that is exactly what I want to be. I love the state and the people. I got here because I didn't think enough. Today I still love this country and want to be loyal to the homeland and follow the laws of the State of Israel."
Reuveni was also questioned in connection with the Duma arson affair and the murder of the Dawabsheh family, and on suspicions of additional Jewish terror offenses. He was one of the top targets of the Shin Bet's Jewish Division.
Reuveni was, until recently, both a prisoner and a detainee. His legal status changed after the district court ordered to release him from detainment as part of a price tag case against him, and now he remains only a prisoner. Reuveni and his family hope the change in legal status would mean a change in his conditions.
"Now his legal status is similar to that of many other Jewish security prisoners who are imprisoned in religious wings and are allowed phone calls and visits from their families," one of Reuveni's relatives explained. "There's no reason Yinon can't have the same conditions. We hope the cruelty towards him ends. He got married, he wants to start a new life, to be rehabilitated and start a family. There's no reason why he shouldn't be allowed that."
The Church of Loaves and Fishes, which is run by the Order of Saint Benedict, is considered one of the most important churches in Israel. Christians believe the church is built on the site where Jesus performed the Miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes. It is a traditional site of pilgrimage in the Holy Land.
In June 2015, Reuveni and several others torched the church, causing extensive damage to two rooms and the structure's exterior. Reuveni also defaced the limestone wall with red paint denouncing the worship of idols.