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Jewish shrine near Kfar Saba damaged in fire, police say

Law enforcement officials say circumstances still under investigation; site on Route 55 highway believed to be burial place of Benjamin, son of Biblical patriarch Jacob

Damage is seen to a shrine, believed to be the burial place of Benjamin son of Jacob, following a fire near the city of Kfar Saba, on May 6, 2022. (Israel Police)
Damage is seen to a shrine, believed to be the burial place of Benjamin son of Jacob, following a fire near the city of Kfar Saba, on May 6, 2022. (Israel Police)

Police and fire officials were investigating a blaze that broke out at a Jewish shrine in central Israel on Friday night.

The fire caused extensive damage to a building worshipers revere as the final resting place of the biblical Benjamin, one of the 12 sons of Jacob.

The shrine is located just outside the town of Kfar Saba northeast of Tel Aviv and some 1.3 kilometers (.8 miles) from the West Bank town of Qalqilya.

There were no injuries and it was unclear if anyone was in the building at the time of the fire, which came during Shabbat when Orthodox Jews who do not use motor vehicles would be unlikely to visit the building on the side of Route 55.

Pictures showed extensive damage to the site, with a heap of burned texts laying next to the tomb itself, which also showed signs of having been burned, along with walls and other objects.

Officials said the cause of the blaze had not been determined; reports indicated that the possibility of it having been an arson attack was being investigated along with other avenues.

Damage is seen to a shrine, believed to be the burial place of Benjamin son of Jacob, following a fire near the city of Kfar Saba, on May 6, 2022. (Israel Police)

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have risen in recent weeks amid an uptick in Palestinian terror attacks and Israeli security operations; many of the tensions surround the sensitive Temple Mount holy site in Jerusalem, raising fears that fighting could spiral into the spasms of intense violence that rocked the region a year ago.

As Israel fought an 11-day war against Hamas-led terrorists in Gaza last May, ethnic tensions inside Israel exploded into days of rioting in cities across the country. Businesses, homes, cars and at least one synagogue were torched during the rioting.

Last month, a site in the West Bank city of Nablus believed by some Jews to be the burial place of the biblical Joseph, Benjamin’s brother, was vandalized by Palestinian rioters, who set fires and destroyed parts of the shrine.

Joseph’s tomb was also set alight in 2015 and 2000.

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