On February 8, Saba Gigiberia, the Bishop of Khoni and Samtredia Eparchy of the Georgian Orthodox Church, held the sermon and stated that he is not going to get the Covid-19 vaccine. He further talked about the building of Solomon’s temple (First Temple) in Israel, which in his words, suggests that the time of the Second Coming is approaching. We regard, that this statement of the Orthodox clergyman is anti-Semitic.
“I can not say anything else. We have time to talk about how we should act during the proposed vaccination. I would say that I am not going to be vaccinated and you can act as you wish. By the way, I have heard something and we tried to verify this information. We partially got the notice that it is true. Israel started to build Solomon’s Temple. Majority can guess that I am not focusing on it accidentally. This event is associated with the Second Coming. We should manage in this time to commit kind deeds – more spiritual and material things as well. As the Patriarch told us, we should live for each other imbued with the love towards God, love towards the fellow and we will be saved and thousands among us will be saved too.”
According to the biblical narrative, the Solomon’s Temple was destroyed twice. The last time it was destroyed on the 9th/10th of Av, 70 CE. According to apocalyptic views, Jewish people will manage to rebuild it again to consecrate the Antichrist who will declare himself as messiah. In the context of the campaign against vaccines, Bishop Saba reiterates the conspiracy theory against Israelites according to which the reconstruction of Solomon's Temple is linked to the Second Coming. This kind of narrative is another manifestation of anti-Semitism.
Statements by high ranking clergy of the Orthodox Church are appalling. It is noteworthy that neither the representatives of the Patriarchate, nor the State authorities have critically evaluated the growing number of anti-Semitic statements. They have not condemned these speeches this far.
We once again call on the the Patriarchate of Georgia to clearly express their position regarding the growing tendency of anti-Semitic speeches and condemn the statements of similar charachter.
We call on the State authorities to urgently condemn anti-Semitism, hate speech against Jewish people and disseminate the statements in support of tolerance, respect for human rights and anti-discrimination.
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On 20 December 2020, the Metropolitan of Kutaisi-Gaenati Eparchy of the Georgian Orthodox Church and the head of the Education Center of the Georgian Patriarchate, Ioane Gamrekeli made antisemitic statements during his sermon at Bagrati Cathedral in Kutaisi.
The sermon has promoted a dangerous religious stereotype that attributes collective guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus to the entire Jewish people and portrays Jews as persecutors of Christians - a widespread stereotype that represents the most solid basis of institutional antisemitism.
Bishop Gamrekeli’s statement was supported publicly by the current Ambassador of Georgia to Israel, Lasha Zhvania. He posted on his official Facebook page, that assessment of Gamrekeli’s speech as anti-Semitism was defamation.
On 4 January 2021, another clergyman from Kutiaisi-Gaenati Eparchy, Archpriest Ilia Karkadze, made antisemitic statements. The Archpriest made his statements in support of Metropolitan Gamrekeli.
Anti-Semitic statements of the Orthodox clergy were also followed by a number of anti-Semitic comments in social media.
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