Shlomo Bistritzky, regional chief rabbi in Hamburg and local Jewish community member Eliezer Noe were leaving a meeting with Mayor Peter Tschentscher in Hamburg city hall on Thursday afternoon when a passerby threatened them and spat on them, German media reported.
A 45-year-old man of Moroccan background was arrested after a struggle with police.
Bistritzky told the Hamburg Abendblatt newspaper that the man first said “Shalom” to them.
“Then he said something that sounded threatening. We faced him and asked him what he had said,” Bistritzky continued. “He then reached under his shirt and pulled out something… and began to threaten us verbally.”
The object reportedly turned out to be a lighter; the man held out the open flame while spewing insults and spitting at the men. He reportedly spoke both Arabic and German.
Bistritzky took a cell phone photo of the man and ran back to the city hall, where police were standing. The officers attempted to speak with the man, who then tried to flee, while spitting on Bistritzky and Noe again.
Eventually, police subdued and arrested the man, placing a “spit protection hood” on him.
Bistritzky told the Abendblatt that he “never thought something like this could happen in Hamburg, let alone in this spot. We took it as a bad sign, too, that the attacker was released after two hours.”
The state police have taken over the investigation.