JERUSALEM, Israel – Last weekend's conclusion of the global Isaiah 62 prayer and fast for Israel was an overwhelming success, but there was one aspect about it that took the attendees and many members of the Jewish community in Jerusalem by surprise.
Before, during, and after that prayer meeting, a large number of ultra-Orthodox demonstrators harassed and even attacked some who attended the event.
They called the participants "missionaries" and the protests turned violent.
Juergen Buehler, executive director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), witnessed the attack.
"We didn't partake at this event, but I was one of the attendees," he explained. I walked out, and I got real – literally afraid (for) my life, because I never saw so much hostility then on that day. And it was thanks to the Israeli police that jumped on the spot and pulled us out that nothing worse was happening."
Protesters attacked the wife of Shelanu TV President Ron Cantor.
"They began to kick her. They began to punch her. They hit her in the stomach. They began to stomp on her feet. She was wearing sandals," Cantor recalled. "It was quite brutal when she finally – what happened after about 10 minutes or so – one police officer and a tour guide took hold of her and got her through into the event, but not before she was really emotionally traumatized and, and physically hurt."
Cantor added, "My wife, by the way, she's not a tourist, she's not an immigrant. She is a native Israeli. They were attacking a fellow citizen."
An Israeli official recommended they go to the police.
At an event for the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast this week, two members of Israel's parliament publicly apologized for the incident, including former Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana.
He told the gathering, "Unfortunately, a few days ago, some extremist demonstrators shouted at a group of visitors to the holy places and this is completely unacceptable in my eyes. "I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for this behavior on behalf of the Knesset."
Religious Zionist Party Knesset member Ohad Tal, said there is unity among the Knesset's warring factions in their disapproval of the attack. "I want to emphasize that what you spoke about, this unacceptable behavior at the holy sites, it's something that we're not arguing about that – coalition, opposition, we're all on the same page."
Buehler was grateful for their stand. "I also was very touched to hear today, every single member of the Knesset today in this meeting, even the speaker of the house, very strongly condemned what was taken place a few days ago when you had those riots and demonstrators against a Christian prayer gathering at the Southern Steps, so, this was phenomenal today to see that," he noted.
Cantor said the trouble-makers don't represent the vast majority of Orthodox Jews.
"I want to be clear about something: It's so important that, that your (CBN) viewers know, 99.9% of Orthodox Jews do not behave this way. I interact with Orthodox Jews every single day in my life here in Israel, and they do not react like that. This is a radical sect," he explained.
Cantor said he and his wife have forgiven the demonstrators.
"I don't want people to hate Israel. I don't want them to think that this is the normal behavior, but we do want accountability," Cantor said.
"There is a radical element that the flames are being fanned by their leaders and it needs to be addressed and it needs to be stopped."