Israeli court quashes assault charge against Greek Orthodox cleric who was spat at by Ultra Orthodox Jew

An Israeli judge has quashed assault charges against a Greek Orthodox cleric who assaulted an Ultra Orthodox Jew in reaction to victim spitting at the ground near him.

The priest didn’t deny punching the student in the face, but asked for charges to be dismissed because they contravene :the essence of the principles of justice and fairness.” This request is in accordance with Israeli law.

The judge agreed to this request, noting the number of similar spitting incidents in recent years. “Needless to say, spitting toward the accused when he was wearing the mantle of the church is a criminal offense,”

There is no question in my mind as to the unacceptable behaviour of the Yeshiva student who spat at the priest (actually it wasn’t a priest but someone studying for the priesthood). The question arises as to whether from a religious/moral view the assault may be justifiied.

Obviously the reaction was the wrong one, very un-Christian.

It is intolerable that a man of the Christian faith should be demeaned because of his religion, in the same way that it is for a Jew, Pollock said.

“The Jewish people experienced a long history of Christian anti-Semitism that brought great suffering to Jews and Judaism,” the judge continued.

“However, with the realization of the return of the Jewish people to sovereignty and independence, the state must strive not to look back but to establish a country that guarantees freedom of religion and worship to every religion, a state where every person is equal before the law without distinction of race or religion. These things are the cornerstone of the Declaration of Independence, and the rock of the foundation of Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state.”

The plaintiff told the court that he had not spat at the priest to degrade him but because he suffered from a medical complaint that caused him to produce a lot of saliva.

Pollock dismissed this argument owing to the fact that he had not produced any medical documentation to substantiate the claim, nor had he needed to spit during the duration of the court proceedings.

“The defendant is being prosecuted for having, in a single incident, punched a man who spat in front of him, after having suffered years of being spat at and demeaned while wearing the mantle of the church, and having never received any response from the authorities for this distress,” the judge said.

He ruled that the indictment represented a contravention of the principles of justice, for which he was dismissing the charges.

It sounds like a fair ruling to me.

Therefore was the judge correct in quashing the charges?

The act of this marginal group spitting at people of another religion is no less contrary to Judaism. The judge sought to send a message by quashing the charges, that the authorities must act to root out these unacceptable acts and to bring these people to justice. If the authorities were unable or unwilling to do so, he felt it inherently unjust to bring the victim of these dispicable acts to trial, for finally losing his temper in light of this inaction.

I’m not so sure the judge made the right decision. I don’t know what the law on assault is in Israel, but in principle I think the fact that you are a persecuted minority doesn’t give you the right to become violent. Whenever someone punches another person in the face it’s for a reason, unless the person is totally insane. I don’t think the judge’s personal disproval of Jews disrespecting Christians has much bearing on the fact that one man punched another.

The Orthodox don’t have clerics, they have bishops, priests, and deacons.

You are absolutely correct that being insulted or disparaged does not constitute a defense for assault. If this was the issue then the priest would have been convicted. Here we are talking about a preliminary motion under section 149(10) of the criminal procedure law whereby the judge held that it was inherently unjust for the authorities to prosecute the priest while not taking the necessary steps to uproot and bring to trial those people involved in a recurring criminal act endured regularly by the priest when walking through the old city of Jerusalem dressed in church robes.

I agree. Two wrongs do not make a right. Rather than responding with violence, the priest (or seminarian) should have filed a legal complaint.

My impression is that the judge was bending over to protect the rights of a minority. In general, this is a good thing, but perhaps there are better ways to do so. On the other hand, in some states of the US, provocative actions AKA “fighting words,”: are considered a legitimate reason for responding with non-lethal violence. Does Israel have a similar legal tradition?

I must have lost my mind when I posted this. :confused:

You’re right of course, but I would have punched him in the face too.:o

Hmm. I guess this sort of reinforces my feeling that if I wanted to make a pilgrammage somewhere, I’d go to Rome or Ireland or Santiago de Compostela before I’d go to Israel.

He would have been wrong to find the man innocent, for clearly what the man has done is against the law, and should be.
But, as it is, to do other than to throw the case out would be to reinforce and become a part of a system that does not address an injustice. Clearly the judge’s conscience would not allow him to do that.

The law was never meant to be a refuge for lying scoundrels, and given what spitting at others does to the name of Israel and Judaism, a punch in the nose is not all that far out of line.

Spitting like this insults Israel more than the people being spat at.

I understand the priest was very upset. But if I were him, I would have filed guilty. Cause, even if the Jewish person had spat on me, we catholics are not meant to be violent during persecution. And we can only attest to violence when there is a cause for justice, but not for ourselves.


The priest is Catholic insomuch as he is a member of the Greek Orthodox Catholic Church but he is not Catholic in the sense most of us would mean here as he is EO and not in communion with Rome of course. However I have heard from a number of people I know that this kind of behaviour is not uncommon in some areas in Israel and is directed towards Catholic and Orthodox clergy fairly regularly. My father served in the middle east and visited Israel and has recounted incidents of Orthodox and Catholic priests been spat at full in the face. One story showed remarkable fortitude as it involved a Russian Orthodox priest who invited the individual to spit at him again so he as a priest could learn the true humility of Christ

I do not condone the actions of the priest in punching the individual who spat at him but given that he may have been spat at repeatedly over a long period one wonders if any of us here would behave better.

I for one was impressed with the judge’s prudence.

In this neck of the woods, it would be called an application of the “doctrine of fighting words.” The law recognizes the fact that people of ordinary good sense can be provoked beyond their endurance by words or acts that are calculated to inflame the passions.

The repeated nature of the insulting actions or words is good evidence of provocation.

Also, in many areas, spitting itself is a battery, therefore spitting in someone’s direction could be an assault. This raises the possible issues of self defense.

More importantly, though (and this to me illustrated the true wisdom of the judge), the ruling took the police to task for failing to address a lingering situation. One cautionary word from a police officer probably would have been sufficient to prevent the entire incident.

Agreed, unfortunately this is a long running situation and shows that prejudice knows no bounds and one should never assume that because a group has been persecuted that certain members of that group will themselves not stoop to persecuting others also. Sadly.

Yes, everyone can be tempted to be hurtful to another. The article does not say what the source of the dispute was, and I don’t know enough about it even to hazard a guess.

I did like the judge’s explanation to both the priest and the student that they both should take a lesson from it - I thought it was a very humane thing to say.

It does go to show that good police work really can help people overcome a fixation with abusing their neighbors. Too bad a young man ended up with a bloody nose in this case. And I would think that the priest, looking back on it, was mortified. But I’ll bet that the police chief got a copy of the ruling, and that in the future things will not get so out of hand, at least on that street!

Whoever that judge was, he truly seemed like a man who attested to true justice; righteousness without corruption. You see that? That’s one heck of a guy.


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