Five haredi Jews were detained by Israeli police on assault charges on Wednesday after they allegedly spit on Christians in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The suspects, among them a youngster, were apparently going through the Muslim Quarter of the holy city when they spat at a nearby church’s entrance.
After the arrests, Jerusalem police commander Doron Turgeman declared, “We will not tolerate expressions of hatred toward anyone—Jews, Muslims, or Christians—in the Old City and anywhere else in Jerusalem.”
The education, worldview, and regard for others of those who engage in such behavior are severe issues. We denounce this despicable conduct that undermines the distinctive way of life that has long flourished in this region, welcoming visitors, worshipers, and tourists of all faiths—Jews, Muslims, and Christians, side by side,” he continued.
The police statement featured video of the altercation from Wednesday and the arrests that followed.
Turgeman said he had approved the creation of a special investigation team to address the situation amid a recent rise in isolated incidences of ultra-Orthodox Jewish fanatics spitting upon Christians.
Given that the overwhelming majority of incidents of spitting on Christians go unreported, he said, “We need to start identifying and handling such cases and incorporate surveillance cameras, officers in the field, network monitoring, and all available means for real-time or retrospective monitoring.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that the Jewish state was “totally committed” to defending the right to worship for people of all religions in response to an earlier incident.
The prime minister continued, “I strongly condemn any attempt to intimidate worshippers, and I am committed to taking immediate and decisive action against it.” Eli Cohen, the foreign minister of Israel, also denounced what he described as an “ugly” phenomenon.
Cohen tweeted that “freedom of religion and worship is a fundamental value in Israel.” He noted that hundreds of thousands of Christian tourists travel to Israel each year to see places that are sacred to both Jews and Christians.
“I call on all Israeli citizens to respect the tradition and faith of all who come to the gates of Jerusalem, the holy city,” Cohen’s post concluded. For the annual Feast of Tabernacles celebrations, which take place from September 29 to October 6, thousands of evangelical supporters of Israel from around the world have congregated in Jerusalem this week.
The largest Christian Zionist group established in Israel’s capital, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, planned the eight-day event, which is expected to draw 3,000 Christian visitors from more than 80 countries.