Meretz reaches out to Christian patriarchs

Haredi spitting at priests in Jerusalem has gotten worse in past six months, say city councilors.

CITY COUNCILORS meet Armenian Patriarch Archbishop 311 (photo credit: Courtesy of Meir Margalit)
CITY COUNCILORS meet Armenian Patriarch Archbishop 311
(photo credit: Courtesy of Meir Margalit)
Jerusalem City Council members from the Meretz party met on Thursday with the Armenian patriarch, to apologize for the increase in ultra-Orthodox spitting at priests as they walk in the Old City.
According to Meir Margalit, the Meretz city councilor who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio, the phenomenon of haredim spitting at the ground as priests walked by has gone on for years but has gotten considerably worse in the past six months. The issue was highlighted in an October court case against a Greek Orthodox priest who punched a haredi man who spat at him. The judge dismissed the case after saying that the haredi man had provoked the priest.
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“Needless to say, spitting toward the accused when he was wearing the mantle of the church is a criminal offense,” Judge Dov Pollock said in the October 31 ruling.
Local Meretz activists joined city councilors Laura Wharton, Pepe Alalu and Margalit for the meeting with Armenian Patriarch Archbishop Torkom Manoogian. Two weeks ago, the group, along with two rabbis from Rabbis for Human Rights, held a similar meeting with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III.
“We went to ask forgiveness in the name of the Jewish nation and the citizens of Jerusalem,” Margalit said on Friday.
“I grew up in Argentina during a period when there wasn’t a small amount of anti-Semitism. When I heard this, it immediately brought me back to Argentina. How can the Jewish people be doing something that they used to do to us not so many years ago?” Margalit asked.
Margalit said that both meetings with the church leaders had been positive, and that Manoogian had said he believed the problem stemmed from a lack of education in the haredi community.
Margalit said he would appeal to the haredi city councilors to ask rabbis to denounce the practice. But he also encouraged the police to stop it “once and for all” by using the many security cameras in the Old City to identify and arrest the men spitting at priests.