Israeli President Isaac Herzog told Christians that “the State of Israel will always preserve freedom of religion and worship" after a video emerged of religious Jews spitting at Christians in the Old City of Jerusalem.
“We will insist on protecting all of the religious communities that make up the beautiful human mosaic of our country and safeguard every site, religious leader, and human being from any vile expressions of hatred or intolerance,” Herzog said during a video address to the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem’s Feast of Tabernacles Tuesday evening.
“This commitment goes to the very heart of who we are as a Jewish and democratic state. And it is not something we will ever compromise on,” he said.
Israeli leaders have been outspoken in their condemnation of the spitting depicted in the video.
Earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote on Twitter: "Derogatory conduct towards worshipers is sacrilege and is simply unacceptable. Any form of hostility towards individuals engaged in worship will not be tolerated."
"Israel is totally committed to safeguard the sacred right of worship and pilgrimage to the holy sites of all faiths. I strongly condemn any attempt to intimidate worshippers, and I am committed to taking immediate and decisive action against it," he added.
Israel's chief rabbi, Rabbi David Lau, responded: "During Sukkot, the [Jews] prayed and sacrificed in the Holy |Temple for the peace of the 70 nations of the world. We too will continue to pray for their welfare and honor all the nations that come to honor the holy city of Jerusalem. I strongly condemn improper behavior to any person and any religious leader. These wrongdoings certainly should not be attributed as having any connection to Jewish law."
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites, said: "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."
Religious Affairs Minister Michael Malchieli said: "I strongly condemn the phenomenon of spitting at Christians in Jerusalem. This is not the way of the Torah, and there is no Rabbi who supports and legitimizes such despicable behavior. It is our duty to denounce this, and we will continue to respect all nations that come to the gates of the Holy City."
Yehoda Vald, CEO of the Religious Zionism Party, added: "This is uncivil and unnecessary hostility. And as [the person who did so] uses Rabbi Kook as support for his words, he should learn a little from Rabbi Kook and his students like Rabbi Shlomo Aviner."