President Reuven Rivlin hosts meeting of Israeli Jewish and Palestinian Muslim religious leaders
(Communicated by the President’s Spokesperson)
President Reuven Rivlin this evening (Thursday) hosted a meeting of senior Israeli Jewish and Palestinian Muslim religious leaders who came together at the President’s Residence under an initiative of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, in order to express their opposition to religious violence, and voice support for living together in peace.
Among the participants were Israeli Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, and Palestinian Authority President of the Sharia Court and President Mahmoud Abbas’ Islamic affairs advisor Sheikh Mahmoud Habbash, who led a delegation of Palestinian spiritual leaders. Also attending was Rabbi Shlomo Brin, head of Yeshivat Har Etzion for first-year students; Rabbi Moshe Lichtenstein, head of Yeshivat Har Etzion in Gush Etzion; and Rabbi Daniel Tropper, founder and president emeritus of the Gesher organization.
“The meeting between us today is important and significant – perhaps the most important meeting that could be held during these days,” began President Rivlin, and continued, “the purpose of this meeting – first and foremost – is to call for all of us be extra cautious of any harm that may be caused to human life. This is a shared call for all of us, the children of Abraham. We are all here today to make clear that we have a duty to peace and respect, beholden upon us as religious values as those who are observant of tradition and religion. We are duty-bound to uphold peace and respect, specifically because of our religious beliefs, and not God forbid despite them. Sadly, this simple truth is far from trivial. All around us, there are more than just a few people convinced – and want to spread such convictions, and perhaps convince the whole public – that war and violence are a commandment of God. These people are a minority in all the faiths to which they belong, yet to our sorrow their voices have been most vociferous in recent years.”
He continued, “We all know that the tensions between Jews and Muslims are difficult and far from simple, and specifically for that reason we insist to meet together here today. We must not allow this land to be once again a sacrifice of blood senselessly spilled.”
Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef welcomed the meeting and said, “Beloved is man created in the image of God. We must not be silent when people are being murdered. We must not return to what occurred in the Holocaust - when millions of Jews were murdered and the world remained silent. Also the violence between Jews and Muslim must end. My father was the Chief Rabbi in Egypt. He would go together with all the religious community heads to King Farouk of Egypt before each festival. He sat by his side and spoke as friends about the Bible. Seventy years ago, one hundred years ago, we lived in peace – and this is so important. We must return to living in peace – Jews alongside Muslims. My father was the first who gave a religious ruling that it was permissible to give land for peace. Although King David said, “I speak of peace and they of war”. The same minority which is preventing peace must be stopped by us. We must condemn terror in all its forms, and after this minority is stopped, there is a chance for peace between us and the Muslims.”
The Chief Rabbi ended by quoting from the writings of the Prophet Isiah. “And it shall come to pass in the end of days, that the mountain of the Lord's House shall be established as the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many peoples shall go and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
The meeting was the result of an almost year-long initiative led by two Washington Institute scholars - Ziegler Distinguished Fellow David Makovsky and Kaufman Fellow David Pollock – who devoted dozens of hours in private talks in recent months to bring this group together.