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Israeli President Herzog meets Christian leaders in Israel ahead of Christmas and the New Year

Israeli President Isaac Herzog meets Christian leaders of the Holy Land, ahead of Christmas and the New Year (Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Israeli President Isaac Herzog welcomed leaders from various Christian communities for a pre-holiday season reception on Thursday, amid the ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza.

The president spoke about the current situation and ensured the leaders that the State of Israel is committed to the well-being of the different faith communities of the Holy Land.

“Evil forces of the worst kind carried out a barbaric, sadistic attack, killing innocent women, children, old people, young people, people from 40 nationalities, taking hostages, raping, chopping heads, burning people, and more. There are also many people of the Christian communities who are affected by these horrors,” Herzog said.

“Nothing of this is compatible with the Gospels, with the writing of the Gospels, with the teaching of Jesus Christ, or the teachings of course of the Jewish faith, and also with moderate Islam,” he continued.

“Our problem – all of us – is with extreme fundamentalist Islam, which does not accommodate you or us. It's an expression of an empire of evil that emanates from Tehran, which believes in jihadist ideology, which we all have to eradicate. And that is why this war was forced upon us.”

Herzog encouraged the Christian leaders to continue mutually supporting Israel during this challenging wartime.

“In the last year I've taken clear steps to defend and to protect Christian communities in the Holy Land," he said, urging Christians to reciprocate.

"I do expect all religious leaders and all voices of the Christian world to express clear condemnation of these horrors, and to support our efforts to eradicate evil from the face of the Holy Land, and enable a different future for Israelis, Palestinians, and the region as a whole.”

President Herzog addressed the need to differentiate between good and evil and said that Israel’s fight against Hamas has global significance.

"There were some deeply disappointing comments by certain very important leaders in the Christian world and we expect a different direction because, in the end, we are all dealing with something which is very clear: Are we in favor of good, or in favour of evil? Israel is clearly, undoubtedly doing its best. And it's fighting not only for us against Hamas, but for the world at large, for the voices of morality.

Among those in attendance at the reception were Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III Giannopoulos, His Beatitude Nourhan Manougian of the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem; Cardinal Battista Pietro Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem;

Other participants included leaders representing various denominations, among them, Greek-Catholic, Coptic-Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Syrian-Catholic,  Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran.

Herzog also met leaders of Israel’s Evangelical community who voiced their condemnation of terrorism and ensured their support for and solidarity with the people of Israel.

At the end of the remarks, the president thanked the leaders for attending and shared his hope for peace in the coming new year: “May I wish you and all the members of the Christian faiths in the Holy Land, and the world at large, a Merry Christmas, and a happy 2024. Let's all pray for joy, happiness in a different direction for this region.”

Greek Patriarch Theophilos III thanked Herzog on behalf of the Christian community, saying: “We wish to express our gratitude Mr. President, for welcoming us to this reception in this season of light and hope and wish to acknowledge the support that you have always given to the Christian community of Jerusalem, and the Holy Land. We are with you today at the critical time for all the peoples of our multiethnic and multicultural and multi-religious Holy Land.”

He added: “Our common moral tradition teaches the unique value of every human life and respect for the dignity of every person strong. Our common moral tradition expects the entire human family to live in dignity. Our common moral tradition recognizes the importance of freedom, safety and security for the well-being of all.”

Israeli Interior Minister Moshe Arbel spoke to the Christian community leaders during the reception, thanking them for their support.

"The prophet Malachi wrote: ‘There is one father for us all, there is one God. How can a man betray his brother to break the covenant of our fathers?’” he began. “These words accompany us every day, hour by hour, to remember that we are all sons of one Father,” Arbel said during his remarks.

“I would like to recognize those faith leaders who, immediately after the October 7 attack, expressed their sympathy and empathy, and concern for the well-being of the hostages. I have no doubt that this important meeting here at the President's Residence, together with the leaders of faith communities, will bring with a message of hope for peace and love for humanity,” he added.

"The Ministry of the Interior will continue to help strengthen and protect the holy places and the freedom of worship. May we know good days when "nation will not lift up sword against nation and they will no longer learn war."

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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