Report: ultra-Orthodox spitting at Christian clergy in Jerusalem

Details, from a Jewish paper in Israel:

Ultra-Orthodox young men curse and spit at Christian clergymen in the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City as a matter of routine. In most cases the clergymen ignore the attacks, but sometimes they strike back. Last week the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court quashed the indictment against an Armenian priesthood student who had punched the man who spat at him.

Johannes Martarsian was walking in the Old City in May 2008 when an young ultra-Orthodox Jew spat at him. Maratersian punched the spitter in the face, making him bleed, and was charged for assault. But Judge Dov Pollock, who unexpectedly annulled the indictment, wrote in his verdict that “putting the defendant on trial for a single blow at a man who spat at his face, after suffering the degradation of being spat on for years while walking around in his church robes is a fundamental contravention of the principles of justice and decency.”

“Needless to say, spitting toward the defendant when he was wearing the robe is a criminal offense,” the judge said.

When Narek Garabedian came to Israel to study in the Armenian Seminary in Jerusalem half a year ago, he did not expect the insults, curses and spitting he would be subjected to daily by ultra-Orthodox Jews in the streets of the Old City.

“When I see an ultra-Orthodox man coming toward me in the street, I always ask myself if he will spit at me,” says Narek, a Canadian Armenian, this week. About a month ago, on his way to buy groceries in the Old City, two ultra-Orthodox men spat at him. The spittle did not fall at his feet but on his person. Narek, a former football player, decided this time not to turn the other cheek.

“I was very angry. I pushed them both to the wall and asked, ‘why are you doing this?’ They were frightened and said ‘we’re sorry, we’re sorry,’ so I let them go. But it isn’t always like that. Sometimes the spitter attacks you back,” he says.

Other clergymen in the Armenian Church in Jerusalem say they are all victims of harassment, from the senior cardinals to the priesthood students. Mostly they ignore these incidents. When they do complain, the police don’t usually find the perpetrators.

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Comments

  1. The young men of the ultra-orthodox persuasion seem to lack an understanding of the history of Western Europe in the 1930′s and 1940′s. The consequences when intolerance is shown to another faith and especialy when they are now living in a county that was created because of that period of history. Their schools and leadership are failing to explain an essential element of coexistence.

  2. They’ve been doing this for years and it seems to be considered bad form to mention it out loud or even to complain.

  3. But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. Matt. 5:39.

    I wonder what the reaction would be if these clerics were to challenge their attacks to spit on them again. I once shamed a group of young men into submission by doing exactly that after they snide remarks about sexual abuse because I was wearing clerics.

  4. My first thought when reading about adults spitting on someone is, “Were they raised by wolves?” Is there something in their teaching or catechesis that says this is acceptable or praiseworthy behavior, or is it just random bullying toward someone they perceive as different?
    Ralph makes a good point.

  5. David J. White says:

    I wonder what a tourism boycott by Western Christian groups would do to the Israeli economy.

  6. Deacon Dave says:

    According to a ZENIT article from January 2010, there have been attempts by Jewish Rabbi’s and officials to stop this practice. Link to the article: http://www.zenit.org/article-27986?l=english
    Young men often make bad choices. I know I did as a youth. There is much to be said for the wisdom that life experience gives us.

  7. Ralph’s response was brilliant. Hopefully, it should sink in to anyone who’s an “offspring” of the shoah victims. Its dangerous what can happen when history is forgotten.

    Mac

  8. “They abhor me, they stand aloof from me, they do not hesitate to spit in my face!” Job 30:10.

    “My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting” Isaiah 50:6cd.

    “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you” Matthew 5:11-12.

    Anyone know if they also spit at Muslims?

  9. D’Arcy, thank you for your thought-provoking contribution.

  10. I’ve known several Christian Brothers who taught in Israel. They went over sympathetic toward the Israeli Jews and came back more pro-Palestinian than Arafat. They have all cited this, and worse behavior.

  11. Why do these young men behave like Brown Shirts? It is incomprehensible to me.

  12. The company I work for has a branch in Israel. We often do work for them and vice-versa; I have to say that my interactions with them have been positive. I suppose we need to be careful about putting all the Israeli Jews in one basket; the same as I wouldn’t want to be lumped in with the more extreme fringes of Catholicism/Christianity.

  13. Our tour manager instructed everyone to step off the sidewalk if we see any men wearing large furry hats coming towards us. From past visits to Israel some of his Christian customers received an elbow in the ribs by these people who I think are Jews from Eastern Europe. They obviously do not like Christians (which, BTW, for Melody’s benefit, include Catholics).

  14. As always, fundamentalists are nothing but class! I guess we can be grateful that they haven’t gone all lower-primate on us and started throwing feces. Yet….!

  15. Yeah, Pete, I know. Just saying there are extremists in all faiths. Think Westboro Baptists and offshoots like Mel Gibson’s group. We could do the logic class exercises, you know, all rabbits are mammals but not all mammals are rabbits…

  16. It’s not just the young guys who do it. They don’t like Christians but at least they’re honest about it. t’s a pity. I find the Ultra Orthodox more intesting culturally than all the other groups of Jews.

  17. This is something i worry about, simply as a pilgrim one day visiting the holy land and openly displaying my faith. although far from an expert on Israeli and Haredi life and currents, i keep up much more than the average lay person. What i have discovered, contrary to what some Israelis have replied to me on message boards, is not pleasant. This spitting and contemptuous remarks are not a rec ent phenomenon, it goes back to the beginnings of the state, with nuns not exempt from the abuse. Shame on these haredi, shame. And shame on all of them that use thier Talmudic views of non jews to justify such behavoir. These ultras should serve in the IDF and wake up to the cold cruel fact that thier state is increasingly losing those who are sympathethic toward it.

  18. The talmud condones all this type of behaviour:

    Baba Kamma 37b. The gentiles are outside the protection of the law and God has “exposed their money to Israel.”

    Sanhedrin 57a . A Jew need not pay a gentile (“Cuthean”) the wages owed him for work.

    Sanhedrin 58b. If a heathen (gentile) hits a Jew, the gentile must be killed.

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