Christian Pilgrims Spat on by Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem’s Old City

After the spitting incident, Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that Israel is "totally committed to safeguard the sacred right of worship and pilgrimage to the holy sites of all faiths." (Image by Midjourney)

In Jerusalem’s ancient, stone-paved streets, an incident unfolded that would ripple through the international community, igniting a firestorm of outrage and condemnation.

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A group of ultra-Orthodox Jews, identified by their dark suits and broad-brimmed black hats, were captured on video spitting on the ground beside a procession of Christian worshipers, who were solemnly carrying a wooden cross through the Old City.

This disrespect towards the Christian community was not isolated but a manifestation of escalating religious tensions in the region.

The Christian community, a minority in the city, expressed their anguish and frustration, citing the incident as the latest in a series of religiously motivated attacks.

The video, captured by a reporter from Israel’s left-leaning Haaretz newspaper, showcased a stark contrast between the peaceful procession of pilgrims and the disdainful actions of the ultra-Orthodox Jews.

The pilgrims, bearing a giant wooden cross, retraced the path they believed Jesus Christ took before his crucifixion. This route winds through the Old City, sacred to Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.

The incident drew sharp criticism from various quarters, including a rare outrage from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who insisted that Israel is “totally committed to safeguard the sacred right of worship and pilgrimage to the holy sites of all faiths.”

He condemned any attempts to intimidate worshipers and pledged to take “immediate and decisive action” against it.

However, the incident and the subsequent reactions from political figures have brought to light deeper, underlying issues.

Since the formation of Israel’s most conservative government in history late last year, religious leaders, including the Vatican-appointed Latin Patriarch, have voiced concerns over the increasing harassment of the region’s Christian community, which has a history stretching back 2,000 years.

The government, with influential ultranationalist officials like Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, is accused of encouraging Jewish extremists and fostering a sense of impunity.

Yisca Harani, a Christianity expert and founder of an Israeli hotline for anti-Christian assaults, noted, “What happened with right-wing religious nationalism is that Jewish identity has been growing around anti-Christianity.”

Elisha Yered, an ultranationalist settler leader, further fueled the outrage by defending the spitters, claiming that spitting at Christian clergy and churches was an “ancient Jewish custom.”

 His comments, juxtaposed with the video of the incident, spread rapidly on social media, amplifying the chorus of condemnation.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and the country’s minister of religious affairs, Michael Malkieli, were among those who condemned the act, asserting that such behavior “does not represent Jewish values” and was “not the way of the Torah.”

However, activists documenting daily attacks against Christians in the Holy Land were startled by the sudden wave of government attention, given the significant increase in attacks this year.

The incident, while shocking, has opened a window into the escalating religious tensions in Israel, revealing a complex web of historical grievances, political influences, and religious nationalism.

As the story unfolds, the Christian community will closely watch how Israel navigates the turbulent waters of religious tension and whether it can uphold its commitment to safeguarding the sacred right of worship for all faiths within its borders.

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