Photo Credit: Yoav Dudkevitch/TPS
Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel at a ceremony marking the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day in Jerusalem Apr 17, 2023.

The Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel on Tuesday condemned attacks on Christian pilgrims in Israel, as did the Chief Sephardic Rabbi, the Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites and numerous other religious and political leaders in the Jewish State.

The comments came after videos were released in the past few days showing multiple incidents in which haredi Jews spat at or otherwise harasses Christian visitors in the Old City of Jerusalem.


Israel has two chief rabbis, one each for its Sephardic (Middle Eastern) and Ashkenazic (European) Jewish communities.

Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau issued a statement saying he wished to clarify that on the holiday of Sukkot, at the Temple era (2,000 years ago), the Jewish people would pray and offer sacrifices at the Temple for the peace of the 70 nations of the world.

“We too, nowadays, will continue to pray for them and respect all the nations that come to honor the Holy City of Jerusalem,” he said. “I strongly condemn harm to any person and any religious leader. These immoral phenomena have certainly nothing to do with Jewish law.”

Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef likewise condemned the attacks. “An act of taunting nations using the name of religion and the name of heaven is a desecration of the name of heaven,” Rabbi Yosef said.

“The acts of provocation against members of other religions committed in Jerusalem must be condemned. This is nationalism that has no place and has nothing to do with Judaism.”

The Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites in Jerusalem, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, likewise condemned the incidents.

“I vehemently condemn violence against believers in the Old City and all forms of violence. I call upon the leaders of all religions: we must do everything in our power to preserve the delicate fabric of the Old City, which is complex and challenging, in honor of our faiths and in honor of Jerusalem,” the rabbi said.

Christian pilgrims from around the world come to Jerusalem for the Sukkot holiday known to Christians as the Feast of the Tabernacles.

The comments came after videos were released in the past few days showing multiple incidents in which haredi Jews spat at or otherwise harasses Christian visitors in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials and lawmakers — including several from the haredi sector — also strongly condemned the attacks and warned the Israeli government will act against those who attack people of other faiths.

“Israel is fully committed to safeguarding the sacred right of freedom of worship and pilgrimage to the holy sites of all faiths,” the prime minister said in a statement.

“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.”

Shas Religious Affairs Minister Michael Malkiel and other ministers and lawmakers also issued statements condemning the attacks.

“This is not the Torah’s way,” Malkiel said. “There is no rabbi who would legitimize such deplorable behavior. We must denounce it and continue respecting all people who grace the gates of the holy city.” he said.

Housing Minister Yitzchak Goldknopf, head of the United Torah Judaism faction, said that “our Holy Torah commands us to act respectfully toward every person, no matter his belief, religion, or origin.”

Likud Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said the attacks do not represent Jewish values.

TPS contributed to this report.


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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.