Protestors from the Orthodox organization Lehava disrupted a performance by an Armenian church choir in Jerusalem’s Clal Center, home to several Messianic congregations.
The protestors called the Christians “Jew killers” and shouted, “Go back to Syria.” The Armenian choir, featured as part of an arts festival on Thursday, stopped singing after after just one song, but continued an hour later after police arrested Lehava’s leader and dispersed the protestors.
The Clal Center, is an atrium, allowing spectators to hear the choir throughout the building.
Derek Allen, a student at Kings School of Media, was just stepping into the school when the choir started singing. He saw a man immediately step out of the nearby bar and begin shouting at the choir.
“As I was walking into the school, a guy came out of the bar next to the school and started yelling at them,” Allen told KNI. “My classmates who know Hebrew said he mentioned Yeshua a few times. The security guard was talking to the protesters and it went on like that for 45 minutes. The choir stopped when he started yelling.”
The choir was performing next to the entrance of The Pavilion, an auditorium which houses King of Kings and several other congregations.
“The protestors were trying to get down the stairs but the cops kept pushing them up the stairs,” Allen said.
The head of the radical Lehava organization, Bentzi Gopstein, and another activist were arrested.
“It was kind of freaky that they were pointing to the media school and Yuval, the music school,” both run by believers, Allen said. “I was afraid more protestors would show up and it would get out of hand.”
Despite concern over potential escalation, Allen said it was hard to tell whether the riot was organized in advance or occurred spontaneously when people heard the singing. Some news accounts reported dozens of protestors.
Wadie Abunassar, executive director of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops in the Holy Land, demanded justice for the “barbaric” act.
“We strongly condemn this barbaric act and call on the Israeli law enforcement authorities to put Gopstein and his people on trial, not only for this incident, but for all their activities that are full of violence and incitement,” Abunassar said in a written statement. “We take this opportunity to mention that we filed a police complaint against Gopstein over a year ago for similar actions. Likewise, we condemn any justification to infringe on the freedom of expression of any person.”