Yeshiva Student Apologizes to Archbishop for Spitting

JERUSALEM (Haaretz)–A yeshiva student who spat at the Armenian archbishop in Israel and at a 17th-century cross during last week’s procession marking the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem’s Old City has met with heads of the Armenian community and apologized for his actions–police said Sunday.

The student–Natan Zvi Rosenthal–explained that he was raised to see Christianity as idol worship–which is forbidden by the Torah. Rosenthal’s rabbis from the Har Hamor Yeshiva in Jerusalem–who–along with his father–were present at the meeting–said they regretted the incident–and that they educate their students to be courteous to others. The rabbis said Rosenthal was the first of their students to be involved in such an incident.

Har Hamor is considered an elite yeshiva–one highly esteemed among the nationalist ultra-Orthodox population.

The Armenian archbishop–Nourhan Manougian–said he and his coreligionists accept the apology and that their religion comman’s them to forgive Rosenthal.

The police spokesman’said the apology will not affect its decision on whether Rosenthal should be indicted for spitting at the procession.

The meeting took place last Thursday at the police station in the Old City–but police did not publicize it until Sunday–when the police commander in charge of holy sites–Chief Superintendent Shlomo Ra’anan–reported it to the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee.

The committee was holding an emergency meeting to discuss the harassment of Christian clergymen in Jerusalem–which had been reported in Haaretz.

Participants in the meeting–including Christian clergymen and representatives from ministries and the Jerusalem Municipality–confirmed that the problem was widespread and that incidents of harassment were not generally reported to the police.

Ra’anan said police have received only three complaints in the last few years on the issue–saying "no one expects us to have a police officer protecting every priest."

But the harassment continues. A few days ago–Stars of David were spray-painted on the entrance to the Monastery of the Cross–not far from the Knesset. The Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral–located near the Jerusalem police headquarters in the Russian Compound–has suffered similar vandalism.

In addition–officials at a church located near several yeshivas complained that yeshiva students were watching them through binoculars and making offensive gestures when they passed by. Churches located near Jewish areas in Mount Zion–the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and in Mea She’arim complained that neighbors had thrown garbage into their yards.

Interior and Environment Committee chairman MK Yuri Stern (National Union) said these incidents are unacceptable and stem from ignorance and stupidity. Stern–who heads the Knesset lobby for advancement of relations with Christian communities–said the content and the tone of the way in which Christianity is mentioned in schools must be changed.

The committee decided to turn to Education Minister Limor Livnat to establish a forum for Jewish and Christian clergymen–and called on police to intensify their watch on Christian sites.

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