ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 147

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'Such behavior is strictly forbidden'

Jerusalem’s chief Sephardic rabbi condemns harassment of Christians

Shlomo Amar’s unusual statement in English follows multiple small incidents and an unauthorized protest led by the city’s deputy mayor against Evangelicals

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Shlomo Amar speaks during Jerusalem Day celebrations in Jerusalem, June 2, 2019. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)
Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Shlomo Amar speaks during Jerusalem Day celebrations in Jerusalem, June 2, 2019. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

The chief Sephardic rabbi of Jerusalem and a tourism sector boss have added their voice to the chorus of condemnation against the harassment of Christians in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Shlomo Amar on Tuesday spoke out in an English-language letter against the phenomenon, which received attention in the media following an unauthorized protest on May 28 by religious Jews led by a deputy mayor of Jerusalem against Christian worshipers at the Western Wall.

“We were sorry to hear from non-Jewish clerics that a number of young Jews and some who pretend to be G-d-fearing, persecute them with curses, blasphemies and more, as they walk the streets of the city. No doubt, irresponsible people who are not at all observant of the Torah and its ways did this. We announce that such behavior is strictly forbidden,” read the letter published Tuesday by Amar, whose office rarely publishes statements in English.

In the May 28 altercation, Deputy Mayor Arieh King led hundreds of religious Jews who chanted “missionaries go home” as hundreds of Christians arrived to a southern section of the Western Wall for a prayer event that organizers advertised as being for God’s plan for Israel.

In recent months, Christian clergy have said that some religious Jews spit at their direction when their paths cross in the Old City.

Deborah Lipstadt, the US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, wrote on Thursday that she concurs with Amar’s condemnation of harassment of Christians and non-Jewish clergy by young Jews in the Old City.

Jerusalem, Lipstadt wrote, “is a holy city for all the Abrahamic faiths and must be a city for all its people. Christians, Jews and Muslims alike should feel welcome in Jerusalem and throughout the Holy Land.”

Yossi Fatael, CEO at Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association, earlier this week penned a letter to Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion condemning King’s actions at the unauthorized protest on May 28.

“Insanity has become normal in our country. This must be dealt with, people must be prosecuted, or we will pay the price,” Fatael wrote. He called King’s protest “a slap in the face of Jerusalemites who make a living from tourism,” adding: “How would we feel if we were spat at for being Jewish? Spitting at Christians is to spit at the face, image and status of Israel internationally.”

Dr. Juergen Buehler, president of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, a nonprofit pro-Israel organization, recalled the May 28 protest in an interview published Wednesday in Maariv.

“It was one of the few times in Israel where I feared an assault. I’d never experienced such hostility before,” said Buehler, a Germany-born ordained minister and physicist who has been living in Israel since 1994, and who has two sons serving in combat units of the Israel Defense Forces.

“It was directed at people who spent a lot of money on a trip to Israel and it was a very bad experience for them in the Holy Land. I find this extremely regretful,” Buehler said.

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