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World News

Priest spat at and abused in Jerusalem's Old City

by Donna Birrell

Two men have been arrested after being seen spitting and swearing at a Christian priest in Jerusalem.

The incident happened hear the Zion Gate in the Old City on Saturday evening while Fr Nikodemus Schnabel was being interviewed by a German television correspondent while he was walking through the streets.

One of the two Ultra Orthodox men approached the pair as they were walking and spat at Fr Nikodemus.  The priest and journalist continued to walk through the Old City, and were again approached by the same two men as they walked through the Armenian Quarter. They approached Fr Nikodemus, spat at him again, verbally insulted him and then one of them kicked him. 

Some of the abuse was captured by the TV camera and the correspondent, Natalie Amiri from ARD shared it on her social media site. She later sent the videos to CNN.

Another video filmed by Amiri shows Fr Nikodemus attempting to take a photo of the young men’s faces to show police saying:

"You have no right to touch me and spit on me. The police are always asking. I need a picture of his face.”

An older man intervened in the incident and convinced the abuser in Hebrew to back off, but the suspect told the man to “watch out.”

An armed Israeli man then intervened and physically guided the men away from Fr Nikodemus, as one yelled a profanity about Jesus in English at Schnabel.

The men were later arrested by Israeli Police and are currently being held under house arrest as the incident is investigated.

Police said in a statement: “The police received a report regarding youths who traversed the Zion Gate area in the Old City of Jerusalem. These individuals engaged in verbal insults and spat towards a religious man passing by before hastily fleeing the scene.”

The suspects, one of whom is 17-years-old, were questioned and placed under house arrest.

Christians in the Old City are regularly the target of spitting and verbal abuse by Orthodox Jews. Five people were arrested in October, accused of spitting at people or churches.

In posts on social media, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and Israel's Foreign Minister Israel Katz condemned the act.

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