Yeshiva student apologizes to archbishop for spitting

Yeshiva student apologizes to archbishop for spitting
By Amiram Barkat, Haaretz Correspondent

17/10/2004 23:34

A yeshiva student who spat at the Armenian archbishop in Israel and
at a 17th-century cross during last week’s procession marking the
Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem’s Old City has met with
heads of the Armenian community and apologized for his actions,
police said Sunday.

The student, Natan Zvi Rosenthal, explained that he was raised
to see Christianity as idol worship, which is forbidden by the
Torah. Rosenthal’s rabbis from the Har Hamor Yeshiva in Jerusalem –
who, along with his father, were present at the meeting – said they
regretted the incident, and that they educate their students to be
courteous to others. The rabbis said Rosenthal was the first of their
students to be involved in such an incident.

Har Hamor is considered an elite yeshiva, one highly esteemed among
the nationalist ultra-Orthodox population.

The Armenian archbishop, Nourhan Manougian, said he and his
coreligionists accept the apology and that their religion commands
them to forgive Rosenthal.

The police spokesman said the apology will not affect its decision
on whether Rosenthal should be indicted for spitting at the procession.

The meeting took place last Thursday at the police station in the Old
City, but police did not publicize it until Sunday, when the police
commander in charge of holy sites, Chief Superintendent Shlomo Ra’anan,
reported it to the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee.

The committee was holding an emergency meeting to discuss the
harassment of Christian clergymen in Jerusalem. which had been reported
in Haaretz.

Participants in the meeting, including Christian clergymen and
representatives from ministries and the Jerusalem Municipality,
confirmed that the problem was widespread and that incidents of
harassment were not generally reported to the police.

Ra’anan said police have received only three complaints in the last
few years on the issue, saying “no one expects us to have a police
officer protecting every priest.”

But the harassment continues: A few days ago, Stars of David were
spray-painted on the entrance to the Monastery of the Cross, not
far from the Knesset. The Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral,
located near the Jerusalem police headquarters in the Russian Compound,
has suffered similar vandalism.

In addition, officials at a church located near several yeshivas
complained that yeshiva students were watching them through binoculars
and making offensive gestures when they passed by. Churches located
near Jewish areas in Mount Zion, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City
and in Mea She’arim complained that neighbors had thrown garbage into
their yards.

Interior and Environment Committee chairman MK Yuri Stern (National
Union) said these incidents are unacceptable and stem from ignorance
and stupidity. Stern, who heads the Knesset lobby for advancement of
relations with Christian communities, said the content and the tone of
the way in which Christianity is mentioned in schools must be changed.

The committee decided to turn to Education Minister Limor Livnat to
establish a forum for Jewish and Christian clergymen, and called on
police to intensify their watch on Christian sites.