October 11, 2004 Tishrei 26,
archbishop quizzed over
with yeshiva student
By Amiram Barkat
archbishop in Israel, Nourhan
Manougian, was questioned under
warning by police yesterday after he
slapped a yeshiva student during a
procession marking the Exaltation of
the Holy Cross in Jerusalem's Old City.
The archbishop slapped the student
after the latter spat at the cross the
Armenians were carrying and at
Manougian himself. The incident
developed into a brawl during which
Manougian's ceremonial medallion, which
has been used by Armenian archbishops
since the 17th century, broke. The
yeshiva student was also detained for
now considering whether to initiate
criminal proceedings against the
Armenian archbishop and to charge
him with assault. Meanwhile, the
incident has sparked much anger
among the clergy of the small
Armenian community in Jerusalem.
Religious Jews, among them yeshiva
students, customarily spit on the
ground as a sign of disgust on seeing
the cross. The Armenians, who live
adjacent to the Jewish Quarter of the
Old City, suffer from this phenomenon
more than any of the other Christian
sects in the Old City.
Manougian says he and his colleagues
have already learned to live with it.
"I no longer get worked up by people
who turn around and spit when I pass
them by in the street; but to approach
in the middle of a religious procession
and to spit on the cross in front of
all the priests of the sect is
humiliation that we are not prepared to
accept," he notes.
A policeman is customarily posted to
guard the Armenians' religious
processions, but doesn't generally do
anything to prevent the spitting. The
Armenians took the matter up with
Interior Minister Avraham Poraz
some seven months ago, but nothing has
been done about till now. "The Israeli
government is anti-Christian,"
Manougian charges. "It cries out in the
face of any harm done to Jews all over
the world, but is simply not interested
at all when we are humiliated on an
almost daily basis."
Lawmaker Rabbi Michael
Melchior (Labor Party) says the
phenomenon should be tackled through
educational means. "I would expect
prominent figures among the religious
and ultra-Orthodox sectors, such as the
chief rabbis, to denounce this
phenomenon," he says.