Police arrested five suspects, including four adults and a minor, on Wednesday on suspicion of assaulting Christians by spitting on them in Jerusalem’s Old City. Footage released by the police show some of the detainees during a Jewish procession celebrating Sukkot in the Old City led by the brother of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Chair Simcha Rothman, who also participated.
In additional police footage, one of those participating in the procession is seen spitting on a Christian vendor who was selling crosses. Another suspect was documented spitting on a Christian in a video released on Tuesday, leading to public outrage.
Rothman, who participated in the procession, criticized the assaults against Christians but added that the police were blowing the situation out of proportion.
“Over 1,000 people took part in the procession in complete silence, and it’s a shame to see specific incidents that should be condemned be exaggerated by the police,” he said.
Israel Police Jerusalem District commander, Deputy Commissioner Doron Turgeman, addressed the ongoing incidents of spitting at Christians in the Old City of Jerusalem, saying: "We won’t tolerate hate crimes against anyone in Jerusalem and the Old City, be them Jews, Muslims or Christians.”
“Unfortunately, we continue to see this ugly phenomenon in Jerusalem’s Old City, primarily through extremists spitting on the ground when passing a Christian individual. Those who engage in such acts have malformed views of the world and the concept of mutual respect," he added.
Meanwhile, Turgeman ordered his district to establish a special investigation team to address the assaults and hate crime incidents against Christians in the Old City. Additionally, he issued instructions to expand both overt and covert operational police activities, integrate technological means and examine changes that would enable the imposition of administrative fines against these criminals.
According to footage gathered from security cameras in Jerusalem, police complaints and personal testimonies, Christian monks and religious figures are humiliated and assaulted on a daily basis in various parts of Jerusalem’s Old City and its surrounding areas.
The most common form of assault includes spitting on the person, on their clothing, on the ground, or at the entrances to religious buildings.