Tackle anti-Christian harassment in Jerusalem, Tánaiste tells Israeli PM

Tackle anti-Christian harassment in Jerusalem, Tánaiste tells Israeli PM

Israel has an obligation to tackle the harassment of the tiny Christian minority in Jerusalem, Tánaiste Micheál Martin has warned Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr Martin also called on the Palestinian Authority to ensure that the rights of Christians are protected in the West Bank.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs called on Mr Netanyahu to “preserve the status quo of the holy sites” in Jerusalem, which include sites sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims, during a diplomatic visit to Jerusalem this week.

It is “imperative” that the Israeli government ensures “peaceful coexistence between Christians, Jews and Muslims”, a spokesperson for Mr Martin told The Irish Catholic in a statement.

“The special status and character of Jerusalem and its Old City must be preserved and respected by all.”

His comments come at a time of increased tensions in the Holy Land, with a spike of anti-Christian harassment in Jerusalem.

Christian residents and pilgrims have reported being verbally abused and spat on, with priests, religious and laity targeted.

Earlier this year, the head of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land warned that “the frequency of these attacks, the aggressions, has become something new”.

Latin Patriarch, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, warned that “These people feel they are protected…that the cultural and political atmosphere now can justify, or tolerate, actions against Christians.”

Jewish leaders have spoken out against harassment of Christians, in Jerusalem’s chief Sephardic rabbi, Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who spoke out in an English-language letter against the phenomenon in June of this year.

“We were sorry to hear from non-Jewish clerics that a number of young Jews and some who pretend to be God-fearing, persecute them with curses, blasphemies and more, as they walk the streets of the city,” Rabbi Amar said in a letter.

“No doubt, irresponsible people who are not at all observant of the Torah and its ways did this. We announce that such behaviour is strictly forbidden,” he finished.

Minister Martin met with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Isaac Herzog – whose father was born in Belfast – and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in Israel on Monday. He also met with President Mahmoud Abbas in the Occupied Palestinian Territory city of Ramallah.

Mr Martin added that it is “vital” that the Palestinian Authority protects the rights of the Christian population in the West Bank. The number of Christians there has seen a sharp decline in recent years, leading to concerns for the future of the community in the region.