Police discovered an abandoned synagogue in Tiberias had been converted into a marijuana nursery, with hundreds of plants growing where worshipers had until recently held services.
Two men were arrested as officers raided the site over the weekend, seizing 1,700 plants weighing 320 kilograms (some 705 pounds) that were growing amid remnants of religious artifacts, the Ynet news site reported Sunday.
Video showed plants covering the floor space of the synagogue and surrounding the lectern, where prayers services would have been led.
“It’s shocking that they took a holy place and turned it into a drug lab for growing, trading, and distributing drugs, and all for the sake of making money,” Superintendent Aviv Benzino, who leads investigations for the Tiberias police, told the news site.
Police opened a covert investigation after receiving information about a drug laboratory operating in a residential building in the northern city that sits on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
Officers found that the residential complex included a synagogue that until several months ago was active, but had since been filled with marijuana plants.
Benzino assessed that the place had been operating as a growing site for at least a few weeks.
An attorney for the two suspects said they are both religious Jews from Bnei Brak and Jerusalem who had moved to Tiberias without any criminal intention. The lawyer noted that the investigation was still in the early stages and said he had yet to receive the case material.
Their remand was extended by six days.