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New report warns of rising anti-Christian activity in Israel

The Rossing Centre for Education and Dialogue, a Jerusalem-based inter-religious organisation, released a new report on increasing attacks on Israeli Christians and church properties in 2023.

Christian leaders and experts on Christianity in Israel believe that a wave of increasing nationalism has contributed to the surge of anti-Christian attacks in 2023. The incidents include physical attacks on church buildings and individuals, verbal and physical harassment, cemetery desecration, and spitting on pilgrims and clergymen. 

According to Article 378 of the Israeli penal law, spitting is considered a felony assault. If it’s committed for religious or racial reasons, the perpetrator can be sentenced to 10 years in prison. However, victims are often unaware of the law and fail to report it.

The report reads: “While hostility towards the Christian presence has been a longstanding occurrence in some local communities, it has now escalated to a broader and more severe phenomenon. Spitting has been a known occurrence in religious life in Jerusalem for decades, but it has transformed from a covert act to perpetrators openly spitting at clergy, holy places, and even pilgrims, in broad daylight, before crowds and in the presence of security cameras. The targeting of Christianity is not, on the whole, explicitly encouraged by the political leadership or the Israeli authorities. However, the rise in attacks correlates with a broader socio-political climate marked by a shift towards the far-right, growing nationalism, and an emphasis on Israel as a state for the Jewish population which has impacted the unique majority/minority dynamics of Jewish-Christian relations in the Holy Land.”

The Cardinal of Jerusalem, Pier Battista Pizzaballa, stated: “These people, the attackers, feel they are protected…that the cultural and political atmosphere now can justify, or tolerate, actions against Christians.”

A group of Jewish Orthodox men vehemently entered a shop in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City in March 2023. They pepper-sprayed a U.S. Christian working there as a volunteer and hit him in the face. The report provides more details of the incident: “Subsequently, a group of Jewish children barricaded the door to the shop. He was spat at from the synagogue located above the store on multiple occasions, and liquids were poured on him from above while he was opening the shop door. Additionally, Jewish Orthodox men would display knives in his presence, while others verbally harassed him during work hours, labelling him as a ‘missionary.'”

Two young Jewish men attacked a car carrying two Armenians and pepper-sprayed them in the eyes in January 2023. The victims were hospitalised. When the police tried to arrest one of the offenders, a large group of young Jewish men attempted to climb the Armenian Patriarchate’s building with the intention of removing its flag. A few Armenian men averted them, and they fled. A few Jewish men returned later and started provoking the Armenians.


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