ArmPat Jerusalem: Concerns Related to Spitting Incidents


Armenian Patriarchate of St. James, Jerusalem
Contact person: Bishop Aris Shirvanian
Tel: 972-2-6282331
Fax: 972-2-6282331
E-Mail: [email protected]


Jerusalem, 31 October 2004

The wide-scale media coverage of spitting by a young Jewish Yeshiva student
in the Old City of Jerusalem upon Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, the Grand
Sacristan, and the processional Cross during a solemn procession to the Holy
Sepulchre Church, generated a positive sequence of events.

The Patriarchate received numerous calls from Jewish Rabbis and other
dignitaries expressing abhorrence and regrets over such an offensive

The Patriarch, His Beatitude Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, wrote letters to
the President of Israel, His Excellency Mr. Moshe Katzav, and the Prime
Minister, His Excellency Mr. Ariel Sharon concerning this issue and asked
them to take the necessary measures to bring to a halt similar disrespectful
anti-Christian acts by some extremist religious Jews. His Beatitude
appreciated the condemnation of such acts by His Excellency Mr. Abraham
Poraz, Minister of Interior.

In a letter to His Beatitude leaders of Simon Wiesenthal Center, Museum of
Tolerance of Los Angeles, California, expressed their outrage over the
contemptible spitting attack and pledged to redouble their efforts to
prevent such incidents.

Also the Vatican issued a Statement on October 19, 2004, by the Holy See’s
Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and the Chief Rabbinate of
Israel, stating: “Jerusalem has a sacred character for all the children of
Abraham.. We call on all relevant authorities to respect this character and
to prevent actions which offend the sensibilities of religious communities
that reside in Jerusalem and hold her dear.”
“We call on religious authorities to protest publicly when actions of
disrespect towards religious persons, symbols and Holy Sites are committed,
such as the desecration of cemeteries and the recent assault on the Armenian
Patriarch of Jerusalem. We call on them to educate their communities to
behave with respect and dignity towards people and towards their attachment
to their faith.”

On October 21, the Mayor of Jerusalem, Mr. Uri Lupolianski, met with His
Beatitude and Bishop Aris Shirvanian, Director of the ecumenical and Foreign
Relations of the Patriarchate, and apologized for the spitting assault by
the yeshiva student. He pledged to talk to Rabbis to combat this type of
behavior through education. He also stated that he would appoint an advisor
for Christian Affairs to serve as a contact with Christian Churches. His
Beatitude appreciated the Mayor’s gesture.

On October 26, representatives of Christian Churches met with the Ashkenazi
Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger on his invitation at the Chief Rabbinate
Office. This was a first historic meeting of its kind in Israel for which
Christian leaders expressed their appreciation. Present were bishops and
priests of the Greek, Armenian, Syrian, Coptic, Ethiopian and Russian
Orthodox Churches, Latin, Greek Catholic, Armenian Catholic and Lutheran
Churches. Bishop Aris Shirvanian represented the Armenian Patriarch. Also
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein of the International Fellowship of Christians and
Jews and officials of the Ministry of the Interior and of Religious Affairs
were in attendance.

The Chief Rabbi welcomed all. He strongly condemned the disrespect to
members of other faiths noting that they all were created “in the image of
God” and therefore they should mutually be respected in spite of different
religious beliefs and customs. Furthermore he announced that he would
instruct rabbis to teach their faithful in the synagogues to refrain from
offensive acts towards Christians and to respect them.

Bishop Aris emphasized that the spitting incident that was reported two
weeks earlier was not an isolated one. Since then there had been two other
instances by extremist religious Jews. He stated that such acts are not
committed just by Jewish men, but even by women and children who need to be
educated by their rabbis. However, he noted that most Jews were respectful
towards Christian clergy.

The meeting was concluded by all the participants signing a declaration in
which as leaders of Jewish and Christian religions they called upon their
followers “to increase their tolerance, respect and understanding for
members of different faiths.”