The Jerusalem Post reports another incident of a pious Jew spitting at Christian clergy or symbols in the Israeli-occupied Old City of Jerusalem. According to Holocaust survivor Dr. Israel Shahak, in his book Jewish History, Jewish Religion, this practice has ancient roots and has become increasingly commonplace:
Dishonoring Christian religious symbols is an old religious duty in Judaism. Spitting on the cross, and especially on the Crucifix, and spitting when a Jew passes a church, have been obligatory from around AD 200 for pious Jews. In the past, when the danger of anti-Semitic hostility was a real one, the pious Jews were commanded by their rabbis either to spit so that the reason for doing so would be unknown, or to spit onto their chests, not actually on the cross or openly before the church. The increasing strength of the Jewish state has caused these customs to become more open again but there should be no mistake: The spitting on the cross for converts from Christianity to Judaism, organized in Kibbutz Sa’ad and financed by the Israeli government, is a an act of traditional Jewish piety. It does not cease to be barbaric, horrifying and wicked because of this! On the contrary, it is worse because it is so traditional, and much more dangerous as well, just as the renewed anti-Semitism of the Nazis was dangerous, because in part, it played on the traditional anti-Semitic past.
Jew spits at Greek priests in J’lem
Jerusalem Post, Sept. 5
By ETGAR LEFKOVITS
A young religious Jew spat at a procession of Greek Orthodox priests in the Old City of Jerusalem on Monday, police said, in the third such incident in the mixed city in the last year.
The skullcap-wearing assailant, Amitai Shashar, 20, told police that he spat at the procession near the Church of the Holy Sepulcher because he saw the cross that participants in the ceremony were carrying, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said.
The attacker, an Old City resident, was taken into custody by police officers who were escorting the religious procession.
A Greek Orthodox Church spokesman said that the Jewish extremist had spat in the face of the head of ceremonies, after getting into a heated verbal altercation with the priests at the procession.
Church officials declined to lodge a complaint with police, the church spokesman said.
The assailant was later released on NIS 2,500 bail by a Jerusalem court, and ordered to stay out of the Old City for the next thirty days, except to go to and from his Old City home.
The incident was the third such assault in the Old City in the last year.
Earlier this year, an Armenian priest was attacked by four yeshiva students in the Old City of Jerusalem, an altercation that began when one of the yeshiva students spat on the black-robed priest in front of the Armenian Monastery where he lives.
In a separate incident last year, a yeshiva student spat at a Sunday morning procession of Armenian clergymen in Jerusalem’s Old City and then scuffled with a priest. He later apologized. (JPost, Sept. 5)
According to Amiram Barkat in Ha’aretz on Oct. 12, 2004, the phenomenom is probably underreported by the victims:
Christians in Jerusalem want Jews to stop spitting on them
A few weeks ago, a senior Greek Orthodox clergyman in Israel attended a meeting at a government office in Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul quarter. When he returned to his car, an elderly man wearing a skullcap came and knocked on the window. When the clergyman let the window down, the passerby spat in his face.
The clergyman prefered not to lodge a complaint with the police and told an acquaintance that he was used to being spat at by Jews. Many Jerusalem clergy have been subjected to abuse of this kind. For the most part, they ignore it but sometimes they cannot.
On Sunday, a fracas developed when a yeshiva student spat at the cross being carried by the Armenian Archbishop during a procession near the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City. The archbishop’s 17th-century cross was broken during the brawl and he slapped the yeshiva student.
According to Daniel Rossing, former adviser to the Religious Affairs Ministry on Christian affairs and director of a Jerusalem center for Christian-Jewish dialogue, there has been an increase in the number of such incidents recently, “as part of a general atmosphere of lack of tolerance in the country.”
Rossing says there are certain common characeristics from the point of view of time and location to the incidents. He points to the fact that there are more incidents in areas where Jews and Christians mingle, such as the Jewish and Armenian quarters of the Old City and the Jaffa Gate.
There are an increased number at certain times of year, such as during the Purim holiday. “I know Christians who lock themselves indoors during the entire Purim holiday,” he says.
Former adviser to the mayor on Christian affairs, Shmuel Evyatar, describes the situation as “a huge disgrace.” He says most of the instigators are yeshiva students studying in the Old City who view the Christian religion with disdain.
“I’m sure the phenomenon would end as soon as rabbis and well-known educators denounce it. In practice, rabbis of yeshivas ignore or even encourage it,” he says.
Evyatar says he himself was spat at while walking with a Serbian bishop in the Jewish quarter, near his home. “A group of yeshiva students spat at us and their teacher just stood by and watched.”