JERUSALEM (JTA) — A blogger and law student from Saudi Arabia visiting Israel as a guest of the Foreign Ministry was assaulted and spit upon by local Arab residents during his visit to the Temple Mount and Old City of Jerusalem.
Mahmoud Saud is part of a six-person delegation of journalists and bloggers from Arab countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations, including Saudi Arabia and Iraq. He was the only member willing to make his name public, according to reports.
Videos of Saud visiting the Temple Mount on Monday posted on social media showed men shouting angrily at him in Arabic as boys spit on him. In the Arab market in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem, someone tossed a white plastic chair that hit Saud squarely on the back. Among the epithets shouted in Arabic, according to translated reports, were “traitor,” “Zionist trash” and “pray in the synagogue, not in Al-Aqsa mosque.”
Three Palestinian residents of eastern Jerusalem were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of participating in the attacks, Ynet reported.
Emmanuel Nahshon, who stepped down as Foreign Ministry spokesman last week and will become Israel’s ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg, in a tweet called the delegation “a bridge of dialogue.”
“Only by personally introducing and visiting the country can the walls of hostility and prejudice be broken,” he said. “We open the door and the heart, so that our neighbors can see us as we really are. It is with great pride and a small step on the way to peace.”
Acting ministry spokesman Nizar Amer in a tweet said the ministry condemned the “brutal and immoral behavior of some Palestinians near al-Aqsa Mosque.”
He also tweeted: “Those are grotesquely exploiting the holy places as a political tool. We embrace the young man who was and will remain a guest of honor in Israel.”
A pinned post on Saud’s twitter feed in English calls for the establishment of diplomatic ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia and asks viewers to “please support peace.”
The delegation is scheduled to meet Tuesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and visit the Knesset and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.