A Jerusalem city council meeting recently turned contentious as council members clashed over how to address the escalating attacks on Christians in the Old City. The conference, marked by a heated exchange of words, exposed deep divisions within the council.
Jerusalem City Council Meeting Turns Clash
During the session, councilman Adir Schwartz of the Hitorerut party called for strongly condemning the attacks, highlighting incidents of spitting and verbal abuse targeted at Christian tourists and worshippers. Schwartz also urged implementing additional security measures and closer collaboration with the police to ensure the safety of the Christian community, the Jerusalem Post reported. However, deputy mayor Aryeh King, representing the far-right faction, opposed the motion. King expressed support for tourism but voiced reservations about seminaries. His stance drew criticism from those advocating for protecting Christian residents and visitors. In a provocative response, councilman Yonatan Yosef belittled the call for condemnation by referring to historical actions by Christians against Jews. Yosef cited the crusades, pogroms, and the Inquisition, diverting attention from the urgent issue.
As mentioned, amidst the escalating tensions, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion intervened, emphasizing the city's commitment to condemn violence, regardless of religious, racial, or gender differences. Still, his efforts to restore order and unity among the council members faced significant challenges. Councilman Schwartz also expressed deep concern over the divisive and racist statements made during the meeting, warning of the potential consequences for the city's relations. He lamented Mayor Lion's failure to strongly denounce the offensive remarks, underscoring the urgency of nurturing inclusive and respectful relationships among all communities in Jerusalem. On the other hand, the meeting reportedly sparked discussions about the pope's role during the Holocaust. While Pope Pius XII did not publicly protest the genocide of Jews, the Catholic Church has since taken steps to condemn Holocaust denial and antisemitism. Pope Francis and his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, have expressed their commitment to building fraternity and eliminating the roots of hatred and violence.
Increasing Attacks in Christian Community in Jerusalem
The Vatican News reported that churches in the Holy Land have expressed concerns regarding the repeated attacks and harassment by extremist groups in Israeli society. They have highlighted the severe threats these actions pose to the Christian community's existence in the region. Recently, attacks against churches and Christian properties and physical and verbal abuse against Christian clergy have become common. Accordingly, extremists have been emboldened by the most right-wing government in Israel's history. Thus, the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem issued a statement on May 15, marking the Palestinian al-Nakba. They have urged the international community to take a more active role in safeguarding all communities and maintaining holy sites following the "Status Quo" regulations.
As per Christian Science Monitor, there are concerns that the recent attacks in East Jerusalem may be part of a more significant effort by Israeli extremists and settler groups to drive out Palestinian Christians and Armenians from the area. It is a step towards their ultimate objective of taking control of the holy sites in the region. Israeli Jews and non-governmental organizations are coming together to support the Christian community in Jerusalem, safeguarding the city's diverse population and their right to practice their religion freely. Yet, the support they receive is insufficient to counteract the increasing culture of impunity among extremists. The culture is believed to be fueled by the government's alleged inaction and the absence of legal actions against these extremists.