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Tuesday, 26 January 2010

'Spit In My Face, Ye Jews ...'

John.Donne "Spit in my face, ye Jews, and pierce my side, Buffet, and scoff, scourge, and crucify me, For I have sinn'd, and sinne', and only He, Who could do no iniquity, hath died. But by my death can not be satisfied My sins, which pass the Jews' impiety. They kill'd once an inglorious man, but I Crucify him daily, being now glorified. O let me then His strange love still admire ; Kings pardon, but He bore our punishment ; And Jacob came clothed in vile harsh attire, But to supplant, and with gainful intent ; God clothed Himself in vile man's flesh, that so He might be weak enough to suffer woe."
So wrote the  17th century metaphysical  English poet, John Donne in his Holy Sonnets, but he couldn't have known that more than three centuries later his words would resound with such eerie resonance.
It transpires that young Yeshiva (Talmudic academy) students in Jerusalem have been spitting on  their Christian counterparts. The problem is now so bad that even senior rabbis have intervened.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reported last week:
"Attacks on Christian clergyman in Jerusalem are not a new phenomenon, and may result from an extreme interpretation of the Bible's injunction to "abhor" idol worshipers.
"But several people familiar with the issue say the attacks recently have reached epidemic proportions -- or at least enough that government officials and Orthodox rabbinic figures have begun to take notice.
"A recent meeting between Foreign Ministry officials, the Jerusalem municipality and fervently Orthodox leaders resulted in a statement by Beth Din Tzedek, a haredi or ultra-Orthodox rabbinic tribunal, denouncing the phenomenon. In a sign of the ministry's concern over the issue, both the meeting and the statement were publicised on the website of Israel's diplomatic mission to the Vatican.
"'Besides desecrating the Holy Name, which in itself represents a very grave sin, provoking gentiles is, according to our sages - blessed be their holy and righteous memory - forbidden and is liable to bring tragic consequences upon our own community, may God have mercy," said the statement.
The incident that may have caused the ForeignYESHIVA.STUDENTS Ministry to act happened in September last year, when a two teenage Armenian seminarians reportedly fought with a young yeshiva student who had spat on them. Police intervened, arrested the seminarians and referred the matter to the Interior Ministry.
According to George Hintlian, a spokesman for the Armenian community in Jerusalem, the seminarians now face deportation with the direct intervention by the Police. "It won't happen easily," Hintlian said. "They'll think twice."
However, Christian leaders stress that the problem is not one of Christian-Jewish relations in Israel. Most Israelis, they say, are peaceful and welcoming. In an interview with several Armenian Jerusalemites, they stressed that their relations with the largely religious community in the Old City's Jewish Quarter were normal.
The assaults are carried out by people from the outside - visitors to Jerusalem from other towns, and even from abroad.
However, cases of spitting are confined neither to Armenian clergy nor the Old City. Athanasius Macora, a Texas-born Franciscan friar who lives in western Jerusalem, has been frequently spat upon.
But perhaps the worst incident happened five years ago when a crucifix hanging from the neck of the Armenian archbishop, Nourhan Manougian, was broken during a fight with a yeshiva student who had spat on him.
Further, a Franciscan church just outside the Old City walls was vandalised recently with anti-Christian graffiti, according to Macora.
"I think it's just a small group of people who are hostile, and a very small group of people," Macora said. "If I go to offices or other places, a lot of people are very friendly."
Meanwhile, the Beth Din Tzedek statement, and an earlier one from Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, have impressed the Christians and raised hopes that the spitting may soon end.
msniw
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