[VIDEO] Jews spitting on the ground beside Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land sparks outrage (Netanyahu vows ‘no tolerance’)

Isabel DeBre

AP  /  October 3, 2023

JERUSALEM – A video that shows ultra-Orthodox Jews spitting on the ground beside a procession of foreign Christian worshipers carrying a wooden cross in the holy city of Jerusalem has ignited intense outrage and a flurry of condemnation in the Holy Land.

VIDEO  :  Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu vows no tolerance for attacks on pilgrims (thenationalnews.com)

The spitting incident, which the city’s minority Christian community lamented as the latest in an alarming surge of religiously motivated attacks, drew rare outrage on Tuesday from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior officials.

Since Israel’s most conservative government in history came to power late last year, concerns have mounted among religious leaders — including the influential Vatican-appointed Latin Patriarch — over the increasing harassment of the region’s 2,000-year-old Christian community.

Many say the government, with its powerful ultranationalist officials, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, has emboldened Jewish extremists and created a sense of impunity.

“What happened with right-wing religious nationalism is that Jewish identity has been growing around anti-Christianity,” said Yisca Harani, a Christianity expert and founder of an Israeli hotline for anti-Christian assaults. “Even if the government doesn’t encourage it, they hint that there will be no sanctions.”

Those worries over rising intolerance seem to violate Israel’s stated commitment to freedom of worship and sacred trust over holy places, enshrined in the declaration that marked its founding 75 years ago. Israel captured east Jerusalem in a 1967 war and later annexed it in a move not internationally recognized.

There are roughly 15,000 Christians in Jerusalem today, the majority of them Palestinians who consider themselves living under occupation.

Netanyahu’s office insisted on Tuesday that 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,” he said.

The spitting scene, captured on Monday by a reporter at Israel’s left-leaning Haaretz newspaper, shows a group of foreign pilgrims beginning their procession through the limestone labyrinth of the Old City, home to holiest ground in Judaism, the third-holiest shrine in Islam and major Christian sites.

Raising a giant wooden cross, the men and women retraced the Old City route that they believe Jesus Christ took before his crucifixion. Along the way, ultra-Orthodox Jews in dark suits and broad-brimmed black hats squeezed past the pilgrims through narrow alleyways, their ritual palm fronds for the weeklong Jewish holiday of Sukkot in hand. As they streamed by, at least seven ultra-Orthodox Jews spit on the ground beside the Christian tour group.

Further fueling the outrage, Elisha Yered, an ultranationalist settler leader and former adviser to a lawmaker in Netanyahu’s governing coalition, defended the spitters, arguing that spitting at Christian clergy and at churches was was an “ancient Jewish custom.”

“Perhaps under the influence of Western culture we have somewhat forgotten what Christianity is,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “I think millions of Jews who suffered in exile from the Crusades … will never forget.”

Yered, suspected of involvement in the killing of a 19-year-old Palestinian, remains under house arrest.

While the video, and Yered’s comment, spread like wildfire on social media, the chorus of condemnation grew. Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said spitting at Christians “does not represent Jewish values.”

The country’s minister of religious affairs, Michael Malkieli, a member of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, argued such spitting was “not the way of the Torah.” One of Israel’s chief rabbis insisted spitting had nothing to do with Jewish law.

Activists who have been documenting daily attacks against Christians in the Holy Land were taken aback by the sudden wave of government attention.

“Attacks against Christians have 100% increased this year, and not just spitting, but throwing stones and vandalizing signs,” said Harani, the expert.

“Excuse me,” she added, addressing Israeli authorities. “But where were you?” 

Jews spitting on the ground beside Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land sparks outrage | AP News


Jewish worshippers spit on Christians in Jerusalem

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  October 3, 2023

‘Widespread’ harassment of Christians. 

Several incidents of Jewish Israelis spitting on or near Christian worshippers in occupied East Jerusalem have been recorded this week, signaling an increase in such attacks.   

One of the incidents showed a group of Jewish worshippers walking through a narrow alleyway by the Lions’ Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City and coming across a group of Christians worshippers carrying a cross.

Several of the Jewish worshippers, who were marking the Sukkot holiday, then began spitting mostly on the ground near members of the Christian procession, which was headed in the opposite direction.

Such incidents gave evidence that these attacks have become widespread, Haaretz said.  

According to the news daily, the Global Religious Freedom Action Center recorded 21 such attacks targeting Christians or Christian institutions in August.

Anti-Christian hate crimes have spiked in Israel since the new government – described as the most right-wing in the country’s history – took office late last year.

Most of the attacks are committed by young ultranationalist men or Jewish settlers, including some soldiers in the Israeli army.

These include trespassing on churches, spitting on churchgoers, destruction of Christian symbols and vandalizing Christian graves, among other acts.


Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu vows no tolerance for attacks on pilgrims

The National  /  October 4, 2023

Prime Minister’s remarks follow outrage over video showing Jewish worshippers spitting towards Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister’s remarks follow outrage over video showing Jewish worshippers spitting towards Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed “zero tolerance” for attacks on believers after a video showed Jewish worshippers spitting towards Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem’s Old City.

A video circulating on social media showed ultra-Orthodox Jews spitting on the ground as pilgrims carried crosses along Jerusalem’s Via Dolorosa – the route Christians believe Jesus walked before being crucified.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu, whose coalition government, including ultra-Orthodox and far-right parties, is one of the most right-wing in Israel’s history, said: “I strongly condemn any attempt to inflict harm on worshippers, and we will take urgent steps against such actions.

“Offensive behaviour towards worshippers is a desecration and is unacceptable. We will show zero tolerance towards any harm to worshippers.”

Mr Netanyahu did not reference a specific attack in the message.

The video followed the recent publication of similar footage of people insulting or acting aggressively towards Christians in the Old City.

After capturing it in 1967, Israel annexed East Jerusalem, including the Old City, in a move never recognized by the international community.

The Old City remains at the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as well as tensions between the world’s three major monotheistic faiths.

Last month the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, said that while attacks on Christians in the Old City were “not a new phenomenon”, they had been more frequent “in the recent period”.

Pizzaballa, who Pope Francis anointed as a cardinal on Saturday, said there were many reasons for the increase, including education.

“There are some movements, some rabbis also, who are inciting on this, or at least approving of this,” he said.

“We have not to forget the past relations between Jews and Christians were not simple, to be diplomatic, and all this creates this context.”

The archbishop also said that the frequency of “this phenomenon … is connected, temporarily at least, with this [Israeli] government”.

On Tuesday, the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz, condemned in “the strongest terms the violence against believers in the Old City and all forms of violence”.

“We must do everything in our power to preserve the delicate fabric of the Old City,” he said, addressing “the leaders of all religions”.