(Communicated by the President’s Spokesperson)
Wednesday, 9 August 2023 / 22 Menachem-Av 5783
President Herzog: “I come here on behalf of the entire State and people of Israel to reinforce our commitment to the full protection of freedom of religion and worship in the State of Israel.”
“We must respect the members of all religions, we have committed to this since the dawn of our existence. This is the most basic commandment of ‘love your neighbor as yourself’.”
President Isaac Herzog, today (Wednesday) visited the Stella Maris Monastery in Haifa, accompanied by leaders from various Christian denominations and communities in the Holy Land.
During the visit– which comes against the background of recent attacks against the monastery in particular and against churches and Christian clergy in general – the President was accompanied by Israel Police Inspector General Yaakov Shabtai, and met with the Abbot of Stella Maris, Father Jean Joseph Bergara, along with representatives of the leadership of the Christian communities including Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem H.B. Mgr Pierbattista Pizzabballa; Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem H.B. Theophilos III; Auxiliary Bishop of Nazareth Mgr Rafic Narha; General Vicar of Melkite Community, Abbuna Elias Abed; Anglican Bishop Mgr Hossam Naoun; Maronite Archbishop H.E. Mgr Moussa El-Hage; and Mgr Natale Albino, Secretary of the Apostolic Nuncio.
The President stressed: ‘In recent months we have seen very serious phenomena towards the Christian denominations in the Holy Land. Our brothers and sisters, Christian citizens, who feel attacked in their places of prayer, in their cemeteries, on the streets. I view this phenomenon as extreme and unacceptable in any shape or form. This phenomenon needs to be uprooted, and I am very grateful to the Israel Police and the law enforcement agencies for taking this issue seriously.”
“Here too, in this peaceful, beautiful community, which is hundreds of years old – under no circumstances should it feel threatened. We must respect the members of all religions, we have committed to this since the dawn of our existence. This is the most basic commandment of ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”
The President added, “I come here on behalf of the entire State and people of Israel to reinforce our commitment to the full protection of freedom of religion and worship in the State of Israel.”
The President urged greater understanding of the histories of the religious communities in the Holy Land, and said, “We are committed to the story of the Christian denominations in the Holy Land, a special and unique story which has inspired people around the world – and not without reason, because here in the Holy Land the three great monotheistic religions emerged and we must do everything so that the common life continues together.”
He added, “We have to make sure that the theological dialogue can take place anywhere, but to make sure that everybody is fully protected and that the serenity of this place is safeguarded. My message is both internally to all Christians as citizens of Israel, and to all the dwellers and worshipers from all over the world: The Christian communities are safe and sound, and protected, and thriving in the Holy Land.”
Israel Police Inspector General Shabtai commented: “The Israel Police is engaging in an array of activities to eradicate the incidents and trends that affect the sense of security for all of us. We are here to reassure you of that and to offer any assistance that may be required. As part of the cooperation between all the parties, we are working to bridge the gaps in places of conflict, while simultaneously striving to provide the vital sense of security.”
Father Jean Joseph Bergara said: “I want to thank the Israel Police, the Inspector General, the Mayor and everyone who has expressed support not only with words but also with very clear actions against all these phenomena, on behalf of all the Christian denominations here in Israel. We need to work together to encourage our dialogue, our solidarity and our brotherhood, because we belong to the same country and live in the same places. We want to live together in peace and harmony. Thank you for your cooperation and support. We are all children of the same God.”