Intolerantly non-violent

While religious violence may not be a big problem in J'lem, leaders agree intolerance certainly is.

big three religions 88 (photo credit: )
big three religions 88
(photo credit: )
Earlier this month, two firebombs were hurled at a Jerusalem synagogue in Ramat Shlomo. And last month, a synagogue in the city's northern French Hill neighborhood was badly damaged during a similar attack. Although these are not the sole instances of violence against religious institutions over the past few years, sites of worship, including synagogues, churches and mosques, have largely remained unscathed. "Yes, [a fire attack] happened one month ago and another one last week... but this doesn't mean that it is a major problem," said a spokesman for the police. Yet while contending that there is no "major problem," the police spokesman was unable to provide the exact location of these two recent attacks or to provide numbers and statistics regarding attacks of any kind, including defacement, against religious establishments of all religions. There are more than 900 synagogues and an unknown number of mosques and churches. Community religious leaders agree with the police that violence towards religious sites is a rare occurrence. Says Rabbi Benjamin Lau, rabbi of the Ramban community in Katamon, "I cannot remember any problem in south Jerusalem.... People have enough problems outside with the security and the terror, they don't want to raise additional problems into their lives." Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman, rabbi of the Kol Haneshama synagogue located only a few blocks away in Baka, sees things differently. He cites numerous instances in which children dressed in an Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox manner have thrown rocks at his synagogue. "I did not move to Israel to have rocks thrown at my synagogue," Weiman-Kelman says angrily. Community leaders do seem to agree that religious tolerance between the different religions is marginal - at best. Yet they also blame this intolerance on "the situation." Says Lau, "I think that we have little respect for other religions... People don't know enough about the other religions and because of the security problem and the terror, people usually equate thoughts about terrorism and Muslims." Lau's observation about the lack of tolerance is shared by others. Says Dr. Rabbi Ron Kronish, head of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, "In general, there is no religious tolerance, there's religious intolerance. Religious groups are not terribly concerned about the other groups. They are more concerned about themselves because of the situation." Adds Issa Jaber, a Muslim, director of the Education Department at the Abu Ghosh local council, and co-chairman of the ICCI, "It seems that tolerance is getting lower and lower… I think the major reason for the decrease in tolerance is a result of the political conditions today - the Israeli invasion of Gaza as well as the fighting with the Hizbullah. Otherwise I think tolerance and coexistence would still exist."