ADL: Jews Should Not Spit at Christians

I don’t always see eye-to-eye with Abe Foxman of the Jewish Antidefamation League (ADL), but I want to give him his props on a recent statement issued by the ADL.

According to a press release, issued December 7th,

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has called on the Chief Rabbinate of Israel to publicly denounce the repulsive decades-old practice by ultra-Orthodox Jews of spitting at Christian clergymen they encounter in the street.

“This repulsive practice is a hateful act of persecution against another faith group and a desecration of God’s name according to Jewish law,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “This display of hate and bigotry has no place in Israel and is inimical to Jewish values of treating all people with respect and kindness.”

In a letter to Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger, ADL urged the rabbinical leaders to meet with Haredi leaders in an effort to end the practice and to join together to educate their community about having respect for coexistence with other faiths.

“The issue makes headlines every few years, and promises are made to combat it, but it continues every day,” said Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg, ADL Director of Interfaith Affairs.  “We believe it is time for Israel’s religious leaders to stand up for the Jewish values of treating others with respect and kindness, and to put an end to this ugly phenomenon.”
Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Dov Pollock recently dismissed the indictment of a Greek Orthodox priest who punched a Haredi yeshiva student in the face after the student spat at him in Jerusalem’s Old City.  Judge Pollock noted that this practice has been recurring for years, and that authorities have not been able to identify the perpetrators or to stop these acts.

What makes the ADL statement even more noteworthy is that there has been pushback (of a sort) and the ADL has remained firm. According to an article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz (Hebrew, “The Land”),

The Anti-Defamation League has refused to accept the explanation by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate about its efforts to combat the phenomenon of Ultra-Orthodox Jews spitting at Christian clergymen in Jerusalem’s Old City. While the Rabbinate asserts the ADL is “misguided’ in publicly lashing out at the government institution for not doing enough to fight the phenomenon, the ADL is sticking to its assertions.

“We do not believe our statement was ‘misguided’ in the least. On the contrary, we believe the Rabbinate needed a wake-up call on this issue. We believe they have not done enough,” ADL chairman Abraham Foxman told Anglo File this week. “They’ve condemned it before, they’ve issued all of these statements, but nothing has changed.”

On the other hand,

Wiener called the ADL’s demands “misguided” and “particularly ironic” since “no Jewish institution has done more to fight the totally unacceptable phenomenon referred to than the Chief Rabbinate.” He asserted, “What the ADL calls on the Chief Rabbinate to denounce has been condemned by the Chief Rabbis publicly on more than one occasion.”

Chief Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar also invited the Christian leadership to meet with them to express their “abhorrence” at the spitting and issued “a forceful call to all yeshivot and congregations in the Old City to make sure that no errant members of their institutions misguidedly engage in such practices,” he wrote.

Metzger paid “a solidarity visit” to the Christian patriarchs and met with the police and municipal authorities to encourage greater law enforcement, he added. Wiener also wrote that the situation has improved “dramatically” over the last few months.

Indeed, several Armenian and Orthodox clergymen told Haaretz that while still prevalent, spitting incidents have decreased recently.

I don’t know who is right in this dispute. It’s always easy to say that not enough has been done, and it’s always easy to deny this.

I can say that I’ve been in the Old City when affronts like this were committed—not spitting, but undue jostling of Christians (though I don’t know the religion of the jostlers).

I also can firmly get behind a “Can’t we all just not spit on each other?” campaign.

That’s not only offensive. It’s gross and unsanitary.

What do you think?