Last Friday, a group of Jewish public figures and intellectuals paid
a visit to the leadership of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem
with one simple goal in mind, asking for forgiveness. The group took
the step following a report in Haaretz about two weeks ago
describing the practice of some ultra-Orthodox Jewish young people
of spitting when passing church clergy on the street.
One member of the delegation, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, who is general
secretary of Rabbis for Human Rights, noted that on Yom Kippur, Jews
traditionally atone for transgressions between themselves and God,
but wrongs committed between people cannot be atoned for, even by
God, until the wrongdoer asks forgiveness. Ascherman added that in
contacts with Christian and Muslim clergy, his group of rabbis
condemns the acts of spitting.
Patriarch Theophilos III meeting with the
delegation. (Photo by: Meir Margalit)
The delegation met in the Old City of Jerusalem with the patriarch
of the Greek Orthodox Church, Theophilos III, who spoke of the
spitting phenomenon that he and his church colleagues have been
confronting, but said in Christianity, it was considered a good deed
to show restraint under such circumstances. In that spirit, he
added, he also directed his colleagues to exercise restraint. He
said the spitting was a reflection of ignorance on the part of
people who don't really understand the significance of religion and
Among the members of the Jewish delegation were Jerusalem Deputy
Mayor Yosef ("Pepe" ) Alalu of the Meretz faction and Meretz city
council members Laura Wharton and Meir Margalit. "Since we love this
city, we felt that anything that happens here affects us," Margalit
said. "We came to apologize despite the fact that we had no part in
the spitting, because we believe in mutual responsibility."
Margalit noted that almost all of the members of the delegation who
visited the Greek Orthodox patriarch were born abroad. "We fervently
believe that what the ultra-Orthodox Jews are doing to Christians
here, Christians do to Jews in the Diaspora. We know what they are
feeling and we have vowed that in the Jewish state such things will
Next week, a similar delegation is due to visit with representatives
of the Armenian Orthodox Church, whose clergy have also experienced
the spitting phenomenon.
Let yourself be persecuted, but do not persecute others.
Be crucified, but do not crucify others.
Be slandered, but do not slander others.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep:
such is the sign of purity.
Suffer with the sick.
Be afflicted with sinners.
Exult with those who repent.
Be the friend of all, but in your spirit remain alone.
Be a partaker of the sufferings of all, but keep your body
distant from all.
not even those who live very wickedly.
Spread your cloak over those who fall into sin, each and every
one, and shield them.
And if you cannot take the fault on yourself and accept
punishment in their place, do not destroy their character.
(Saint Isaac the Syrian)