The Israeli police arrested two suspects on Saturday for allegedly spitting on a Christian clergyman in Jerusalem's Old City and cursing at him. The two suspects were interrogated and released to house arrest.
One of the suspects, a 17-year-old, was identified via surveillance footage and arrested by police officers. Another suspect was arrested at his home overnight and taken in for questioning.
Video footage circulating on social media shows one of the suspects confronting Nikodemus Schnabel, who is the Abbot of the Benedictine Catholic Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion.
The German national Schnabel has repeatedly been the target of harassment by Jewish ultra-orthodox youth.
"You touch me without permission?" the clergyman can be heard asking in English, to which the suspect replies: "Shut up!"
The clergyman said: "He spat on me and touched me. The police want me to film him."
The suspect spit in his direction saying: "You want to film me? Film me, you son of a b**. He's a priest, bro. This is what I'll do to them, f**** Jesus."
Jewish settlers continue to incite and attack Christian clergy ( in this case on Abbott Nicodemus in the old city of Jerusalem. Hate-speech has become the norm for these colonisers that enjoy impunity by the Israeli right-wing government. pic.twitter.com/PhX06QKdfV— Mitri Raheb (@RahebM) February 3, 2024
Unlike with recent incidents of this kind, official condemnation swiftly followed.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog said that incidents of this kind had "nothing in common with the values of Judaism," stressing that he has been working toward eradicating "this inappropriate and obscene phenomenon."
"I am sure that the law enforcement system will act resolutely toward this goal. Religion and faith - which can and should be a basis for partnership and deep connections - mustn't become a justification for hating and attacking others," Herzog added.
Israel's Foreign Minister Israel Katz strongly condemned the "ugly incident" in a statement on X.
"Under the rule of the State of Israel, all members of religions will enjoy complete freedom of worship, as never before. As the prophet said: Because my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations," Katz wrote, referencing Isaiah 56:7.
Jerusalem's Latin Patriarchate, the highest Catholic authority in the Holy Land, decried the "unprovoked and shameful" assault on the abbot.
"The prosecution of the perpetrators of such hate crimes is an important tool for deterrence and for enhancing the sense of security of the Christian clergy in the Holy Land," the patriarchate wrote.
Germany's ambassador Steffen Seibert also commented on the incident, saying "Appalling behaviour from these young guys, but what really makes me furious are those who teach them that Judaism means despising Christians or any other religion. This must stop."
The phenomenon of spitting on Christian clergy in the Old City of Jerusalem has become a growing problem in recent years.
In October, five suspects were arrested for spitting during a march in the Old City, just one day after another suspect was filmed spitting on Christian clergymen.
That video prompted condemnation from Israel's chief rabbis, as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many others.
שוטרי מחוז ירושלים עצרו חמישה חשודים ביריקה לעבר נוצרים/כניסה לכנסייה בעיר העתיקה בירושלים (בתיעוד: זיהוי ומעצר שניים מהחשודים הבוקר) pic.twitter.com/2b5yeAriCo— משטרת ישראל (@IL_police) October 4, 2023
The hostilities are not limited to spitting. In October, a group of some 50 ultra-Orthodox Jews, mainly adolescent boys and children, came out to protest the annual Feast of Tabernacles event held by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), Israel's largest annual Evangelical Christian gathering.
The protesters held signs accusing the Christians of "declaring spiritual war against Jews" and "No to a Jewish Holocaust," while chanting that missionaries should "go home."
The persistent harassment of Christians continues despite police presence and official condemnations.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.