By Mihran Kalaydjian, CHA
Spitting on Christians in Jerusalem raises eyebrows
JERUSALEM — From his ceramics gallery along Armenian Patriarchate Road, Garo Sandrouni has a sweeping view of one of the Old City of Jerusalem’s longest thoroughfares, stretching from Jaffa Gate deep into the Jewish Quarter.
Jewish worshipers heading to and from the Western Wall jostle for space along the narrow passage with Armenian priests and seminarians, and Sandrouni says about once a week he finds himself breaking up fights between them.
Typically the skirmishes begin when a young yeshiva student spits on or near a group of teenage seminarians, who occasionally respond by beating up their attacker. Several years ago, a young religious man pulled a gun when Sandrouni moved to intervene in a fight.
“Most of the incidents that happen, unfortunately, they happen in front of my store,” said Sandrouni, who more than once has come to the aid of a yeshiva student bloodied after a run-in with a group of seminarians.
“Almost everybody, after the fight, they apologized,” Sandrouni said. “They say, ‘We are sorry. We didn’t know that their reaction would be so strong.’”
Attacks on Christian clergyman in Jerusalem are not a new phenomenon, and may result from an extreme interpretation of the Bible’s injunction to “abhor” idol worshipers. Five years ago, in what many say is the worst incident on record, a crucifix hanging from the neck of the Armenian archbishop, Nourhan Manougian, was broken in the course of an altercation with a yeshiva student who had spit on him.
Christian leaders stress that the problem is not one of Christian-Jewish relations in Israel. Most Israelis, they say, are peaceful and welcoming. In an interview with several Armenian Jerusalemites, they emphasized repeatedly that their relations with the largely religious community in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter are normal.
The assaults, according to George Hintlian, a spokesman for the Armenian community in Jerusalem, are carried out by people from the outside — visitors to Jerusalem from other towns, and even from abroad.
Several people familiar with the issue say the attacks recently have reached epidemic proportions — or at least enough that government officials and Orthodox rabbinic figures have begun to take notice.
A recent meeting between Foreign Ministry officials, the Jerusalem municipality and fervently Orthodox, or haredi, leaders resulted in a statement by Beth Din Tzedek, a haredi rabbinic tribunal, denouncing the phenomenon. In a sign of the ministry’s concern over the issue, both the meeting and the statement were publicized on the Web site of Israel’s diplomatic mission to the Vatican.
“Besides desecrating the Holy Name, which in itself represents a very grave sin, provoking gentiles is, according to our sages — blessed be their holy and righteous memory — forbidden and is liable to bring tragic consequences upon our own community, may God have mercy,” said the statement.
The incident that appears to have gotten the ministry’s attention occurred last September, when a pair of teenage Armenian seminarians reportedly fought with a young yeshiva student who spit on them. Police intervened, arrested the seminarians and referred the matter to the Interior Ministry.
According to Hintlian, the seminarians are now facing deportation — a decision the Armenians have officially protested. Carrying out the order would require the police to seize the boys from their seminary in the Old City, Hintlian said, which likely would result in a public relations disaster.
“It won’t happen easily,” Hintlian said. “They’ll think twice.”
Though they may bear the brunt of the phenomenon, given the proximity of the Armenian and Jewish quarters, cases of spitting are confined neither to Armenian clergy nor the Old City.
Athanasius Macora, a Texas-born Franciscan friar who lives in western Jerusalem, frequently has been the target of spitting during his nearly two decades residing in the Israeli capital.
Macora, whose brown habit easily identifies him as a Christian clergyman, says that while he has not endured any spitting incidents recently, recollections of past incidents started flowing over the course of 30-minute interview.
In a sitting room at Terra Sancta College, where he is the superior, Macora recalled the blond-haired man who spit at him on Agron Street, not far from the U.S. Consulate. Another time, walking with an Armenian priest in the same area, a man in a car opened his window to let the spittle fly. Once it was a group of yeshiva students in the Old City, another time a young girl.
Sometimes the assailants are clad in distinctive haredi garb; other times the attackers are wearing the knitted yarmulkes of the national religious camp. In almost all cases, though, they are young religious men.
A Franciscan church just outside the Old City walls was vandalized recently with anti-Christian graffiti, Macora said.
“I think it’s just a small group of people who are hostile, and a very small group of people,” Macora said. “If I go to offices or other places, a lot of people are very friendly.”
Meanwhile, the Beth Din Tzedek statement, and an earlier one from Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, have impressed the Christians and raised hopes that the spitting may soon end.
“We hope that this problem will be solved one day,” Sandrouni said, “for the sake of mutual coexistence.”
25 thoughts on “Spitting on Christians in Jerusalem raises eyebrows”
What happened to turning the other cheek?
No comment – Turning to the other cheek, I never thought about it
Few do. 🙂 Retaliation is not the answer, that’s what the opposition want…by retaliating, they’ve already won.
Thank you Kev – for your reply. Did you had the opportunity to visit Jerusalem?
Just stop the spitting! It is so disgusting. If you are kind and gracious, it does not mean that you have to be a door mat.
KV, I appreciate your support to my article. I wish you a wonderful Sunday!
This behavior is shocking to me. I was not aware of this. I have never been to Jerusalem. I had no idea that there was this sort of blatant disrespect being shown between the religious peoples. Thank you for an enlightening post.
I very much appreciate your comment. The Israeli Palestinian conflict is about the future of Jerusalem where the three great monotheistic religions.
Finally, Could you please kindly click to like my Word Press page on Face Book, here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/MihranKalaydjianConsulting
Peaceful coexistence would be wonderful, wouldn’t it?! Thanks so much for visiting my blog and following! I truly appreciate it and welcome your comments when you visit! Blessings, Robyn
Thank you Robyn: Just wanted to stop by to say thanks for following my work and for the likes. Much appreciated
Could you please click to like my word press page on Face Book, I appreciate it:
Have a wonderful Sunday;
Nice report-I will follow your blog as well. beebeesworld
Hi beebeesworld – Just wanted to stop by to say thanks for following my work and for the likes. Much appreciated.
Could you please kindly click to like my word press Link: https://www.facebook.com/MihranKalaydjianConsulting
Have a wonderful Sunday;
that man in your profile picture what is his name?? i think i have met him before?? he looks very familiar ..
Hi Leslie – the man is my profile is my cousin!!
he looks so familiar .. i kid u not .. 🙂 thank u:) have a great day ..
How sad that supposedly religious people are so filled with hate. Many thanks for visiting my blog and following.
Just wanted to stop by to say thanks for following my work and for the likes. Much appreciated.
The Israeli – Palestinian conflict is about the future of Jerusalem, where it is considered the three great monotheistic religions.
Finally, could you please click to like my word press page on Face Book, here is the link:
Have a great week;
Hi Leslie: Did you ever visited Jerusalem, Israel…
Most interesting article. Thank you for following my blog!
Very True.Thank you for commenting. I appreciate your likes to my posts and visits to my Blog. Happy Week!
Well written article…very informative…thank you for visiting, liking and following my blog.
Thank you, kindly!
2000 years gone and nothing changed in Jerusalem. Praying for peace for all these troubled souls.
Jerusalem is an open and international city with three great monotheistic religious!
And still spitting at each other like 2000 years ago…