Jordan slams vandalism of Muslim sites; US pans spitting on Christians in Jerusalem

Police chief Shabtai says ‘creative activities’ in the works to prevent rise in violence against non-Jewish worshipers in Old City

Religious Jews standing atop tombs at the Bab al-Rahma cemetery in Jerusalem. (X screenshot)
Religious Jews standing atop tombs at the Bab al-Rahma cemetery in Jerusalem. (X screenshot)

The Jordanian foreign ministry denounced on Wednesday the “continuing violations and attacks” against Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, while the Biden administration issued its own condemnation of footage from earlier this week showing ultra-Orthodox Jews spitting toward Christian worshipers in the Old City.

In a letter of protest to the Israeli embassy in Amman, the ministry condemned the actions undertaken by “extremists, settlers and Knesset members” against Muslim sites.

The letter also criticized restricted access to the Temple Mount for Muslims seeking to worship at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, as well as the recent desecration of Islamic cemeteries near the complex.

The Jordanians also condemned recent violence against Christians in the Old City, imploring Israel to comply with its legal obligations as the “occupying power.”

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai also spoke out on the issue, saying on Wednesday that “in these days when the people of Israel come out in masses to celebrate and enjoy the beauty of Israel, any expression of hate based on religious background is a stain that ruins the special holiday atmosphere throughout the country and particularly in Jerusalem.”

Shabtai added that police have been adopting “creative activities” to suppress the recent wave of hateful actions toward Christians. “Freedom of expression is the bedrock of a society in a democratic state, and the most familiar sight in the world is that of a shared life of all religions in the Old City of Jerusalem, as well as in Haifa, the Galilee and Tiberias.”

The picture of safe coexistence often painted by Israeli officials is at odds with the experiences Jerusalem’s Christian leaders describe.

While they readily acknowledge that there is no organized or governmental effort against them, Christian clergy in the Old City tell of a deteriorating atmosphere of harassment, apathy from authorities, and a growing fear that incidents of spitting and vandalism could turn into violence against their persons.

On Monday, ultra-Orthodox Jews, including children, were filmed spitting toward Christian worshipers in the Old City, drawing wide condemnation from Israeli politicians, including representatives of the Haredi community.

And on Wednesday, during a march through the Old City as part of festivities for the holiday of Sukkot, police arrested five people for spitting on Christian worshipers.

One of those arrested was suspected of having spit based on the video that was posted on social media on Monday; the other detainees were arrested for spitting during Wednesday’s march.

Elisha Yered, a former adviser to far-right Otzma Yehudit MK Limor Son Har-Melech, drew pushback after he appeared to back the harassment, claiming falsely that spitting at priests or churches was an “ancient Jewish custom.”

In a statement attributed to a State Department spokesperson, the US said it “unequivocally condemns such despicable acts.”

“Moreover, we would reiterate that the United States remains dedicated to the work of advancing equal measures of security, prosperity, and freedom for all people – regardless of one’s faith,” the statement added, expressing appreciation for the condemnations issued by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials.

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