Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi has paid an unprecedented official visit to the headquarters of the Armenian Patriarch in Jerusalem in what is seen as a drive by Israeli officials to improve Jewish-Christian relations in the Holy Land.
Rabbi Yona Metzger, one of two chief rabbis, made the visit as part of a series of meetings with Christian leaders to mend relations after a Jewish seminary student attacked an Armenian archbishop last year. It was the first time an Israeli chief rabbi had visited the Armenian patriarchate.
A Jewish seminary student last year pushed and spat on an Armenian archbishop as he led a religious procession to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a site in Jerusalem commemorating Jesus’ crucifixion and burial.
The student, who later apologized to the cleric, said he attacked the archbishop because he was offended by his holding of a crucifix, which for some Jews has come to symbolize centuries of Christian persecution.
The incident raised an outcry in Israel and officials and religious leaders warned of the need to instil greater tolerance among the country’s youth.