JERUSALEM -- Christian leaders in Jerusalem have attacked what they say is the increasingly common phenomenon of spitting by ultra-Orthodox Jews on members of their faith.
The statement followed a brawl between an Orthodox Jewish student and an Armenian archbishop. The two men clashed in Jerusalem's Old City after a Yeshiva (religious school) student spat at a cross being carried by the clergyman during a procession near the Holy Sepulcher, the revered site of Jesus' Crucifixion.
Archbishop Nourhan Manougian then slapped the Yeshiva student and in the ensuing scuffle, his 17th century ceremonial medallion was broken.
Both were questioned by police and the Yeshiva student is facing charges. He has been banned from approaching the Old City for 75 days.
The Armenians have branded the police action inadequate and say this sort of thing has been going on for years. In an interview with an Israeli newspaper Monday, Archbishop Manougian demanded that Israeli leaders speak out about the abuse.
"When there is an attack against Jews anywhere in the world, the Israeli government is incensed, so why, when our religion and pride are hurt, don't they take harsher measures?" he asked, adding that officials "are not interested when we are humiliated on a daily basis."
His strongly worded critique has encouraged other Christian leaders to speak out, including a senior Greek Orthodox clergyman who has revealed how he was approached by an elderly man wearing a skullcap who spat in his face.
The clergyman preferred not to lodge a complaint with the police and told an acquaintance that he was used to Jews spitting at him.
Daniel Rossing, a former adviser to Israel's Religious Affairs Ministry on Christian affairs and the director of a Jerusalem center for Christian-Jewish dialogue, said there has been an increase in the number of such incidents, particularly in parts of the Old City, "as part of a general atmosphere of lack of tolerance in the country."