Netanyahu gov’t takes harsh measures to protect Christians in Israel

Coalition officials say spitting at Christians reprehensible, but arresting perpetrators was not justified.

By Ryan Jones | | Topics: CHRISTIANS
Israeli police work to keep Orthodox Jews and Christians separated in Jerusalem's Old City. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90
Israeli police work to keep Orthodox Jews and Christians separated in Jerusalem's Old City. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog were apologetic on Tuesday following incidents of Orthodox Jewish opposition to the presence of Christians in Jerusalem during Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles.

But members of Bibi’s coalition say he went too far in trying to appease the Christian world.


Heightened tensions

Sukkot is one of three biblical pilgrimage festivals, and so the number of religious Jews in Jerusalem swells during this time of year. And many of them aren’t happy about sharing their holy city with those they see as “missionaries.”

At the Pais Arena in Jerusalem on Tuesday evening, several dozen Orthodox Jewish protesters gathered outside the International Christian Embassy’s annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration.

They held signs reading,”Your intentions are exposed! Stop pretending now!”

This stream of Orthodox Jews believe that Christian Zionism is a Trojan Horse, a new, more friendly tactic to “convert” Jews to Christianity after centuries of Church persecution failed to do the job.

Christian Embassy spokesman David Parsons issued a statement reading:

“We must be the first to admit there is a much longer, painful history of Christian hostility towards the Jewish people. But thankfully, there has been a sea change in Christian attitudes concerning the nation and people of Israel in our day. The vast majority of Israelis we encounter know this and have warmly welcomed us in Jerusalem for Sukkot once again. We truly appreciate being able to share in the joy of this unique biblical festival with our Jewish friends and will not be deterred from loving and standing with Israel.”

Earlier in the day, several Orthodox Jews on their way to Sukkot prayers in Jerusalem’s Old City spat on the ground as they passed a group of Christian pilgrims carrying a large wooden cross.

The incident was caught on video and enthusiastically circulated online by Israel’s detractors as “evidence” that Jews hate Christians.

The isolated act drew sharp condemnation from Israeli leaders.

Dozens of Orthodox Jews hold signs reading ‘Out with the Christians, Jews -Don’t Enter’ during a protest outside a Christian Embassy Feast of Tabernacles event, at the Pais Arena stadium in Jerusalem on October 3, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/FLASH90)

‘Zero tolerance’

Following the spitting incident in Jerusalem, Netanyahu issued the following statement:

“Israel is fully committed to safeguarding the sacred right of freedom of worship and pilgrimage to the holy sites of all faiths. I strongly condemn any attempt to inflict harm on worshippers, and we will take urgent steps against such actions.

“Offensive behavior toward worshippers is a desecration and is unacceptable. We will show zero tolerance toward any harm to worshippers.”

President Herzog echoed that sentiment in a video address to the Christian Embassy gathering:

“We will insist on protecting all of the religious communities that make up the beautiful human mosaic of our country and safeguard every site, religious leader, and human being from any vile expressions of hatred or intolerance.

“This commitment goes to the very heart of who we are as a Jewish and democratic state. And it is not something we will ever compromise on.”


Perpetrators arrested

Some were surprised when the government further responded by arresting five Orthodox Jews suspected of being involved in the spitting incident.

Police officials said the suspects will be charged with assault, though previous attempts to convict for spitting have been dismissed because the act does not meet the criteria of violent assault.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, meanwhile, insisted the entire unfortunate episode was being blown out of proportion.

Spitting at Christian pilgrims “is deserving of every condemnation. It should be stopped. [But] it is not a criminal case. We need to act on it through instructions and education. Not everything justifies an arrest,” Ben-Gvir told Army Radio on Wednesday morning.

He suggested that the harsh reaction was yet another effort to slander the religious right in Israel by making them out to be bigoted criminals.

Prominent right-wing Member of Knesset Simcha Rothman noted that there were over a dozen instances of Jewish prayer services being disrupted and Orthodox worshippers harassed on Yom Kippur, and not one arrest was made.


Israel Today Membership

Read all member content. Access exclusive, in-depth reports from Israel! Free Zoom events. Connect with Israel right from your home! Raise a voice of truth and hope. Support Faith-based journalism in Jerusalem!


/ month
Full access to Israel Today's Member-only content on all Digital Platforms.
Become a Member


/ year
Full access to Israel Today's Member-only content on all Digital Platforms.
Save 18% Per Month.
Become a Member

Six Months

every 6 months
Full access to Israel Today's Member-only content on all Digital Platforms.
Save 9% Per Month.
Become a Member

One response to “Netanyahu gov’t takes harsh measures to protect Christians in Israel”

  1. Vernon Ryan says:

    Looking at the first picture in the article, the person looking at the IDF member has a very arrogant look on his face. Something unbecoming of one who boasts of being a godly person.

Leave a Reply

Israel Today Newsletter

Daily news

FREE to your inbox

Israel Heute Newsletter

Tägliche Nachrichten

KOSTENLOS in Ihrer Inbox

Subscribe to our Daily Newsletter