A man tried to set fire to the church in Gethsemane in East Jerusalem but was arrested by Israeli police.
Police arrested the 49-year-old, who poured flammable liquid inside the Church, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said without any further clarifications.
According to a spokesman for the Holy Land Churches, Wadi Abu Nassar, the suspect is an Orthodox Jew.
“We thank God for extinguishing the fire quickly,” he added. Nassar in his announcement asked authorities to investigate the case and spoke of possible “racist motives”.
A spokesman for the fire department said the fire “fortunately did not spread throughout the church”, which was filled with smoke. An AFP photojournalist said he saw blackened stalls.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the suspect as a “terrorist Israeli settler” and said in a statement the Israeli government was responsible for such attacks.
The Church of Gethsemane, or Basilica of Agony, as it is also called, is built at the foot of the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem, where according to the Christian tradition Jesus have prayed on the night of his arrest before his Crucifixion.