91-year-old nun killed in fire near famed Jerusalem church

Flames engulf elderly woman’s dwelling on the slopes of Mount of Olives; no arson suspected, according to initial assessments

The burned-out remains of a small dwelling near the Church of Mary Magdalene on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, engulfed in a fire on December 23, 2018, that claimed the life of 91-year-old nun Silva Maria Selaso. (Kan screen capture)
The burned-out remains of a small dwelling near the Church of Mary Magdalene on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, engulfed in a fire on December 23, 2018, that claimed the life of 91-year-old nun Silva Maria Selaso. (Kan screen capture)

An elderly nun was killed Sunday morning when flames engulfed the small one-story home she lived in next to the Church of Mary Magdalene, just east of Jerusalem’s Old City on the slopes of the Mount of Olives.

Five firefighting units were summoned to the home at 4:15 a.m., according to Channel 10 news. They found the building ablaze with fire pouring from every doorway and window.

The nun was identified as Silva Maria Selaso, originally from Estonia, who was known in the church as Mother Ksenia.

Paramedics from the Magen David Adom rescue service declared the woman dead at the scene, with burns on over 30 percent of her body.

“The fire burned with incredible intensity,” said Master Sgt. Mohi Alian, who commanded the firefighting force that responded to the blaze. “The fire extended several meters above the building and completely shrouded it.”

The burned-out remains of a small dwelling near the Church of Mary Magdalene on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, engulfed in a fire on December 23, 2018, that claimed the life of 91-year-old nun Silva Maria Selaso. (Kan screen capture)

Firefighters entered the building, where the 91-year-old nun has lived for 30 years, and pulled her out. The roof of the house caved in moments after the firefighters left the site, located on El-Mansouriya Street. None of the firefighters were hurt.

The destroyed building is on church lands, but the fire did not reach the famed Russian-style church nearby, located adjacent to the traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane.

An investigation has been launched into the cause of the fire, but there is no immediate suspicion of arson.

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