Thursday, October 14, 2004

Jerusalem's disgrace

Oct 12 2004

The police interrogation of Armenian Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, who allegedly slapped yeshiva student Zvi Rosenthal after Rosenthal spat at Manougian and at a crucifix during the Exaltation of the Holy Cross procession in the Old City this week, reveals a little bit of the increasingly wild Jewish-nationalist-religious atmosphere in Jerusalem.

It is the bad luck of the Armenians, a peaceful and modest community in the city, that its churches and other institutions, including their ancient cemetery, is on the way to the Jewish Quarter in the Old City. As a result, the priests of the community suffer from the unrestrained behavior of yeshiva students who pass through the Armenian Quarter, sometimes deliberately, to do harm and cause strife.

This is not the first time the Armenians have fallen victim to such bullying. The police does not make an effort to prevent the disgraceful phenomenon of spitting at priests - Armenians and others - and at the crosses they carry.

The Interior Ministry has done nothing in response to appeals by the heads of the church regarding their plight. Thus the state is neglecting its duty to protect the legitimate representatives of a peace-loving community.

That negligence, just like the bullying, is a disgrace to the state of the Jewish people, which was persecuted through the generations because of its religion and customs.

Moreover, it is a disgrace for Jerusalem. Ever since the city was "reunited," the city burghers and ministers in charge of it have claimed the capital of Israel would protect the dignity and stature of the three monotheistic religions and that their rights would be honored, including the right to freedom of movement.

And now, while the police and Shin Bet focus on preparations for the threat of impassioned assaults on Muslims on the Temple Mount, it turns out that for some time the Christians in Jerusalem have been suffering from various and sundry provocations by wild young people. The provocations - from spitting near or at crosses to throwing trash on the doorsteps of Christian edifices on Mt. Zion - have become an ugly routine in recent years, fitting right in with the increasingly extremist political atmosphere.

Jerusalem is a city holy to the three monotheistic religions. The state of Israel and the Jerusalem municipality are responsible for all the institutions and personages representing those three religions. The churches, monasteries, schools and gardens in within the municipal jurisdiction not only have the right to protection or police escorts during their holidays, but also the sense of belonging and full freedom of activity.

It is intolerable that Christian citizens of Jerusalem suffer from the shameful spitting at or near a crucifix. Similar behavior toward Jews anywhere in the world would immediately prompt vehement responses.

The mayor, the government and the security services must therefore make clear to the heads of all the religious communities that the protection of their safety is the top-ranking priority for them. At the same time, they must take firm action against those enflamed youths looking for opportunities to sabotage the complex fabric of life in Jerusalem.

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