Israel’s Foreign Ministry has decided to boycott a conference dealing with the increasing harassment of Christians in Israel by Jews. This raised some eyebrows given the increasingly warm relations between the Israeli government and Christians around the world, in particular Evangelicals.
Several instances of Christians in Jerusalem being harassed by ultra-Orthodox Jews and right-wing extremists have been heavily highlighted in local and international media in recent months. Most involve Christian clergymen or nuns being spat on by young ultra-Orthodox in the narrow alleyways of Jerusalem’s Old City. There were also acts of vandalism against churches, monasteries and other Christian symbols.
- Churches Complain: Jews Are Spitting at Christians in Jerusalem
- Why Are Jews Attacking Christians in Jerusalem?
Just this week, a hundred or more religious Jews demonstrated against Christian “missionary activity” as a large group of Christian tourists arrived at the Southern Stairs of the Temple Mount to conclude the Isaiah 62 fast for Israel.
יהודי יורק לעבר קבוצה של נוצרים באזור הכותל.
(צילום: “עמק שווה) pic.twitter.com/PaJysRQwov
— دانا بن شمعون דנה בן שמעון (@DanaBenShimon2) May 28, 2023
According to Walla News, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, complained earlier this year that he was having difficulty arranging meetings with ministers and senior officials in the new Israeli government. Instead, he was forced to speak to lower officials. The reason given was that some ministers did not want to upset their voters. Many of the lawmakers making up the new cabinet under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are ultra-Orthodox Jews or far-right religious nationalists, and both groups remain suspicious of Christian intentions for historical reasons.
The abbot of the Benedictine monastery in Jerusalem, Nikodemus Schnabel, also expressed concern over the situation. He explained that this was due to the fact that “Christian-haters” were now in government.
The report noted that in April of this year, the deputy director of public diplomacy at the Foreign Ministry, Emmanuel Nachshon, deleted a tweet condemning attacks on Christians. It is believed that this was done at the direction of the foreign minister’s office to address political sensitivities toward ultra-Orthodox and far-right parties in the governing coalition.
A few weeks ago, Yasaka Harani, a local expert on Christianity and Christian history who had also advised the Foreign Ministry on the issue, decided to hold a conference to address the matter. The conference is being titled “Why Jews Spit on Gentiles.”
With a name like that, the Foreign Ministry said it simply can’t participate.
But ministry officials did tweet that they remain committed to religious freedom for Christians and everyone else.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns any violation of freedom of religion and worship in Jerusalem and any violence against religious officials in the city.
The State of Israel considers freedom of religion and worship in Jerusalem which is holy to Jews, Christians and…
— Israel Foreign Ministry (@IsraelMFA) May 28, 2023
Earlier in the week, opposition lawmaker and former Minister of Religious Affairs Matan Kahana publicly apologized to visiting Christians for the behavior of a small number of misguided people, and stressed that Israel as a whole continues to see Christians as its greatest supporters.
For more on this from a Jewish perspective, see: Don’t Reject Evangelical Support for Israel
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