Netanyahu intervenes and arrests made after Charedim spat at Christian pilgrims

The Israeli prime minister pledged to defend religious freedom and the holy sites of all faiths as five people were arrested


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has condemned "any attempt to intimidate worshippers" as five people were arrested after strictly Orthodox Jews were filmed spitting at Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem.

In footage posted online on Monday, a group can be seen leaving a church carrying a wooden cross.

They are forced to stop to avoid walking into a procession of Charedi men and boys celebrating Succot, several of whom then spit on the floor in front of the Christians.

Four children and one adult have since been arrested for assault, Jerusalem Police have said.

According to local media, one of the people arrested is believed to have appeared in the video, while the other four suspects allegedly spat at Christian visitors in a separate incident. 

Responding to the clip, Netanyahu posted on X/Twitter: "Israel is totally committed to safeguard the sacred right of worship and pilgrimage to the holy sites of all faiths.

"I strongly condemn any attempt to intimidate worshippers, and I am committed to taking immediate and decisive action against it.

"Derogatory conduct towards worshipers is sacrilege and is simply unacceptable. Any form of hostility towards individuals engaged in worship will not be tolerated."

Several religious leaders have also strongly criticised the "despicable" actions captured on film.

The Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel David Lau said: "I strongly condemn harming any person or religious leader."

The "abhorrent" behaviour "must, of course, not be associated in any way with the Jewish halakha," he added.

Religious Services Minister Michael Malkieli said: "[I] strongly condemn the occurence of spitting at Christians in Jerusalem.

"This is not the way of the Torah, and there is not a single rabbi who supports and legitimises such despicable behaviour.

"It is our duty to condemn and continue to respect all peoples who come to the gates of the Holy City."

The idea that spitting on Christians is a Jewish custom is "pathetic," Tourism Minister Haim Katz added.

He added: “Instead of being a light to the nations, the actions of a handful of extremists are bringing hatred on Judaism and on the Jewish people, and are harming Israel’s image and tourism. Zero tolerance must be shown toward any religious symbols."

His comments followed those of Elisha Yered, a far right settlement leader who defended the men and claimed spitting near churches of monasteries was an “ancient Jewish custom”.

The latest incident of spitting in Jerusalem follows several other instances of harassment of Christians in Israel.

Sixteen investigations have been opened in 2023 with 21 arrests and detentions carried out in connection with attacks against the religious minority, according to The Times of Israel .

Roughly 15,000 Christians live in Jerusalem today, with many more visiting the Holy Land every year.

In August, President Isaac Herzog visited a Haifa monastery alongside Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai to raise awareness of anti-Christian attacks.

"In recent months, we have witnessed extremely serious phenomena in the treatment of members of Christian communities in the Holy Land, our brothers and sisters, Christian citizens, who feel attacked in their places of prayer and their cemeteries, on the street,” he said.

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