Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, ministers in his government and the Chief Rabbi all condemned yet another incident of ultra-orthodox Jews spitting on Christian worshippers in Jerusalem.
The incident, which was caught on video, is the latest in a series of attacks against Christians in Jerusalem. Christian denominations in the holy city have complained about the phenomenon for years, but the number of attacks, which include spitting, vandalism and violent assaults, have risen sharply this year.
Priests and nuns have said they are being spat on every day in Jerusalem, but that police rarely do anything to find the assailants.
Jewish News has seen a report by Religious Freedom Data Center for documenting anti-Christian attacks, which says that 30 assaults have been reported to the hotline between June 16 and mid August.
קבוצה של צליינים יוצאת עם הצלב לרחוב שער האריות ונתקלת בקבוצה של מתפללים יהודים עם 4 המינים ואז מתחילות היריקות. ספרתי לפחות 7 בכמה שניות. pic.twitter.com/YjqaknATLw
— نير حسون Nir Hasson ניר חסון (@nirhasson) October 2, 2023
In January, two religious Jews were caught on video vandalising 28 tombstones at the Protestant Mount Zion Cemetery.
In March, the Greek Orthodox Church condemned a “heinous terrorist attack” against an Archbishop who was physically attacked at the church at the Tomb of the Virgin Mary in Jerusalem.
“Friar for one day” English version: The justification of some Jewish groups for hate crimes is that they are "mentally ill". so no. Our investigation proved that the attacks are really not from the mentally ill, but people with a clear opinion who simply hate something they are… pic.twitter.com/rAmReyLnCv
— Yossi Eli יוסי אלי (@Yossi_eli) July 12, 2023
The Armenian church has also reported incidents of vandalism against its property, with graffiti spray painted on its walls saying “death to Armenians.”
“Israel is totally committed to safeguard the sacred right of worship and pilgrimage to the holy sites of all faiths. I strongly condemn any attempt to intimidate worshippers, and I am committed to taking immediate and decisive action against it,” Netanyahu said following Tuesday’s incident.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry also condemned the spitting, while conveying a message on behalf of the Chief Rabbi of Israel, David Lau.
“Israel’s Chief Rabbi David Lau wishes to clarify that on the holiday of Sukkot, at the Temple era, the Jewish people would pray and offer sacrifices in the Temple for the peace of the 70 nations of the world. We too, nowadays, will continue to pray for them and respect all the nations that come to honor the Holy City of Jerusalem. I strongly condemn harm to any person and any religious leader. These immoral phenomena have certainly nothing to do with Jewish law,” the statement read.
Religious Services Minister Michael Malkieli, from the ultra-orthodox Shas party, also condemned the attacks: “This is not the way of the Torah, and there is not a single rabbi who supports and legitimises such despicable behavior. It is our duty to condemn and continue to respect all peoples who come to the gates of the Holy City.”
Meanwhile, an old clip Israel’s current National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, resurfaced on social media, in which he tells KAN Public Broadcaster: “There is an ancient Jewish tradition when we (Jews) pass by a monastery or a priest, we spit. We can agree or disagree, but when we spit on the priest or the church, I don’t think this expresses any violation.”
Elisha Yered, a popular settler activist and former spokesperson for Jewish Power party lawmaker, Limor Son Har-Melech, also defended the spitting in a post on X (formerly Twitter), saying: “It’s a good time to mention that spitting near priests or churches is an ancient Jewish custom, and there’s even a special blessing in Jewish law that should be recited when you see a church.”
Yered was arrested last month on suspicion of being involved in the murder of a Palestinian man in the West Bank but was later released from custody.
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