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Two Israelis arrested on suspicion of spitting at Christian abbot in Jerusalem

The two males were released and given house arrest following apparent anti-Christian attack
Nikodemus Schnabel celebrates the Sunday of the Beatitudes in northern Israel (Nikodemus Schnabel)

Two Israeli males, one a 17-year-old, were arrested on Saturday evening on suspicion of spitting and cursing at a Christian abbot in Jerusalem. 

Video footage shared online shows the two individuals spitting at Nikodemus Schnabel near Jerusalem's Old City.

According to Haaretz, the two were released and given house arrest after an investigation. Nikodemus Schnabel is the abbot of the Benedictine Abbey and of the Priory at the Sea of Galilee. 

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The German ambassador to Israel criticised the incident on X, calling it "appalling behaviour".

Israel's Foreign Minister Israel Katz on social media also condemned "again an ugly incident of spitting at Christian clerics in Jerusalem. I strongly condemn the ugly acts towards members of other religions".

Incidents involving Jews spitting on or near Christian worshippers in Jerusalem were increasingly recorded last year, suggesting that the behaviour is becoming more widespread, the report from Haaretz added.

A number of Christians in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories have pointed to increasing harassment since the coming to power of the present far-right government in late 2022.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, an ardent religious Zionist, has previously defended the act of spitting on Christians as "an ancient Jewish custom" and suggested last year that such incidents did not justify arrest.

'Threat of extinction'

Palestinian Christians in Gaza have also repeatedly voiced concerns at the threat to their community as a result of the Israeli bombardment of the enclave.

Hammam Farah, a Palestinian Christian living in Canada, who has lost several relatives in the present bombing campaign, told Middle East Eye last year that one of the "oldest Christian communities in the world" currently faced "the threat of extinction".

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According to Farah, there were around 3,000 Christians before the Israeli siege and blockade in Gaza started in 2007. The number dwindled to about 1,000 as people left due to the inhumane conditions as a result of the blockade then stayed steady over the years.

However, since 7 October, the number has dropped to 800, with more feared dead as the death toll in Gaza rises every day.

Christians have been seeking refuge in churches throughout the constant bombardment, including in the historic St Porphyrius church, which was bombed on 19 October. 

Farah said he has lost many family members in Israel's "genocidal campaign", which has forced Christians to evacuate their homes and head to churches. 

"The ceiling collapsed [in the St Porphyrius church], killing 18 people, including my cousin, Soliman. He was 35 years old. His wife sustained serious injuries and has a broken back, broken hip, and broken jaw. They have two little boys who witnessed their father perishing beneath the rubble," he said. 

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