Police unresponsive to U.S.-born activist assaulted for his faith
JERUSALEM, December 28 (Compass Direct News) – A Christian of Jewish origin who has been attacked on the streets here four times because of his faith in Christ is seeking police protection.
Jerusalem resident Yossi Yomtov said police have been slow to investigate hate crimes against him by youths wearing kippahs, cloth skullcaps typically worn by observant Jews. In two of the attacks a youth plied him with pepper spray and stun gun shocks, he said.
“This young man cursed me for my belief in Christ,” Yomtov told Compass. “He used ugly curses and spoke in highly abusive language.”
Yomtov, who founded social activist group Lemallah (“Upward”) after moving to Israel from the United States in 1999, said he was last attacked on Dec. 19. On that occasion his group was holding a demonstration in downtown Jerusalem, he said, when a man chanting anti-Christian slogans and using foul language approached him and begin striking him. Police never showed up in spite of many calls to the police station, he said.
Yomtov said he received Christ in 1984, while still living in the United States. He said he became a Christian after he “hit the bottom” – taking drugs and engaging in “in illegal activity.” He regards himself as a Jewish Christian belonging to no one church; he does not belong to the highly organized movement of Messianic Jews.
“I’m not secretive about my belief like some other people, and I often talk about it,” he told Compass. “That’s how many people are aware of me believing in Jesus Christ.”
In previous attacks in the last few months, the assailants appeared to be teenaged or young men of French origin, he said.
“When they approached, one of them started cursing me – I ignored him, as I figured he wasn’t about to attack me, but he did,” Yomtov said. “I received a punch in the face and had to defend myself.”
Police arrived and caught one of the attackers but refused his request to press charges, he said. Yomtov said he asked police why they didn’t secure any witnesses.
“I was told to shut up,” he said. “It was clear that they were not going to press any charges.”
A month later, he said, he was attacked again. The same teenaged youth approached him on King George street in downtown Jerusalem.
“He sprayed my eyes with a pepper spray, and I stood there, blind, for at least 15 minutes,” Yomtov said. “People at a nearby bus stop started calling the police, but they never showed up.”
Late at night on Oct. 12, the harrasment continued.
“I was walking in the city center, in close proximity to a very central Ben-Yehuda street sometime after midnight, and a group of youths with stun guns attacked me brutally,” he said. “I rushed to the police station, but the police officer again was reluctant to take up this complaint, and it took quite a few times and a lot of me convincing them to take this matter seriously.”
Yomtov said he managed to take a photo with his cell phone of the youth who seemed to be the gang leader.
“Finally they agreed to start investigating this issue, yet so far there is no progress in the investigation, and I have totally lost a sense of personal security,” he said. “I don’t know when they’ll come up to me next.”
Police in Jerusalem declined to comment on Yomtov’s case in spite of repeated requests by Compass.
On one street, Yomtov pointed to a morass of hatefull grafitti. Written with Hebrew characters, some of it employed foul language in referring to Christianity and Islam; other messages proclaimed threats such as, “Death to Arabs” and “Death to the left.”
“It seems as if they don’t want to stop the hate crimes, the hate graffities, until it’s too late,” Yomtov said. “If they were serious about enforcing laws against violence they would have at least identified the perpetrator and submitted that information in the complaint file for the prosecutor. Instead they threatened me with arrest, when all I wanted was to investigate the violent crime against me.”
He referred to the recent indictment of ultra-orthodox Jewish extremist Jacob Teitel, an immigrant from the United States charged with multiple hate crimes, including the murder of an Arab shepherd and taxi driver in 1997 and the planting of an explosive device at the front door of a family of Messianic Jews in Ariel that seriously injured 15-year-old Ami Ortiz.
“I wonder whether the Israeli police could prevent the crimes Jacob Teitel performed, had they been taking him seriously from the beginning,” said Yomtov. “It seems that the Israeli police only care to investigate hate crimes when someone is killed or seriously injured.”
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