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By Amiram Barkat
The Armenian archbishop in Israel, Nourhan Manougian, was questioned under warning by (Israeli) 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 questioning. Federal Reserve Infos.doc
Police are 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.