Israel's President Isaac Herzog hosted the heads of the Christian churches in Israel on Thursday for the annual New Year's reception at the President's Residence in Jerusalem.
Herzog opened the celebration with a speech affirming Israel’s commitment to “preserve freedom of religion and worship, and protect the rights of all religious communities and minorities that make up the beautiful human mosaic of our country.”
“This commitment goes beyond politics,” he continued. “It goes to the very heart of who we are as a Jewish and democratic state. There must be zero tolerance for all forms of attacks or vandalism against religious sites, institutions or clergy.”
“And I will continue working with the government and the authorities, including the police, and with you, to ensure that any instances of such violence are promptly addressed," he promised.
Herzog encouraged the participants to unite against “the forces of extremism and hate.”
“Let us join together to combat the challenges that threaten our common humanity – from climate change to pandemics to terrible wars – and let us harness the new spirit of fraternity that is sweeping through our region to welcome a more peaceful future for our children."
Israeli Minister of Interior Aryeh Deri echoed Herzog’s theme of religious unity during his speech.
"In these days of disputes and arguments within us, let us not forget that we are committed to preserving our unity in the face of the many challenges facing us. We will overcome them only together – through prayer, through cooperation and through mutual assistance; through acceptance and peace among us.”
“As we have always acted, members of all religions will live in the State of Israel and the city of Jerusalem,” Deri assured them, “and everyone will have a place to practice his customs, preserve his heritage, go to his house of worship, strengthen his historical memories, and pray to his God from a feeling of freedom and equality and solidarity, which will unite us all.”
Jerusalem’s Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, emphasized that the gathering was a “festive reception in this post-pandemic time.”
“At our gathering last year, we were still uncertain, and this last year has seen a return to a much more normal life for our people and our pilgrims, who are returning to the Holy Land again in large numbers. We give thanks to Almighty God in this season of light and hope," he added.
Also in attendance were His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, in addition to various national archbishops representing churches from the Armenian, Greek Catholic, Ethiopian, Syrian, Anglican Evangelical Episcopal and Maronite communities, as well as Christian communities in Israel.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.