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Jerusalem chief rabbi condemns harassment of Christians in the nation's capital

Statement comes amid backdrop of increasing harassments and little government response

Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Shlomo Amar visits at a Yeshiva in northern Israel, Oct. 21, 2021. (Photo: Michael Giladi/Flash90)

Jerusalem’s Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar released a statement on Tuesday condemning harassment of Christian clerics in Jerusalem. 

That statement was shared on social media by one of Jerusalem's deputy mayors, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum.

Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Shlomo Amar visits a Yeshiva in northern Israel, Oct. 21, 2021. (Photo: Michael Giladi/Flash90)

According to Times of Israel,  Hassan-Nahoum has been leading efforts to stop harassment of Christians in Jerusalem and spoke out against harassment of Christians by ultra-Orthodox demonstrators at the Pentecost 2023 prayer event last month. One incident causing the deputy mayor to arrange for an assistant to escort a Messianic leader while they filed a police report against some of the youth who became aggressive.

Some church leaders accuse the government of only getting involved when politically necessary and have appreciated Hassan-Nahoum's efforts to bring the issue to light, particularly her decision to call out King in her interview with i24 News. She said that Evangelical Christians “are the main pro-Israel lobby today.” 

In December, the deputy mayor met with city council members, police and different representatives from the Old City of Jerusalem to deal with the attacks. 

Over the past several years, Christian clerics, primarily Catholic, Orthodox, and Armenian priests and nuns, have complained of Jewish youth cursing or spitting on them as they passed through the streets in Jerusalem. 

In addition, Christian clerics have long complained that the Israeli police do very little when complaints are filed regarding the spitting incidents compared to how  they have handled the higher profile incidents, where police got involved quickly and made arrests quickly. 

While the incidents are not new, The Jerusalem Post released an article about the phenomenon in 2009, where Christian clerics stated they have seen an increase in harassment since the coalition government came to power. 

Last week, the Axios media outlet reported that Israel's Foreign Ministry will boycott an event focused on spitting attacks against Christians in Jerusalem because it does not approve of the conference title: “Why do (some) Jews spit on Gentiles?” 

The conference is being organized by a former advisor to Israel's Foreign Ministry, Yisca Harani, who is  one of the nation's leading experts on Christianity. 

The Foreign Ministry contacted Harani and told her the title of the conference “is inappropriate,” and will not attend for that reason, Harani said. In addition, several other government officials have not confirmed participation in the conference. 

“It’s clear to me that this is a policy that comes from the top,” Harani told Axios. 

A BBC report last month highlighted the connection between the lack of response to harassment against Christians and the new coalition government. 

“I don't believe that it is a strategy of the new government to attack churches,” he said. “But the young people who practice these offenses feel in some way protected because they have strong representatives in the government,” Bishop William Shomali of the Latin Patriarchate told the BBC.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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