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'We call on everyone to be vaccinated as soon as possible'

Holy Land Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druze, Baháʼí reps urge world to vaccinate

President Herzog hosts rabbis, imams, and patriarchs at his residence, as they cite their role ‘as senior representatives of the religions of the Holy Land’ in issuing call

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

President Isaac Herzog joins religious leaders in Israel to call for believers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and to pray for the afflicted, November 11, 2021 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog joins religious leaders in Israel to call for believers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and to pray for the afflicted, November 11, 2021 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

President Isaac Herzog hosted religious leaders in Israel on Thursday evening and issued a joint call for worldwide vaccination against COVID-19.

Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Druze and Baháʼí leaders joined Herzog at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem to stress that “the sanctity of life is a supreme value for religions and the saving of the life of any human being — all created in the image of God — is the greatest religious obligation of all.”

“It is manifestly clear that the mass vaccination of entire populations is our primary tool for defeating this terrible pandemic,” the statement read.

Joining Herzog at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem were Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef; Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi David Lau; Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III; Latin Patriarch Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa; President of the Shari’a Court of Appeals Sheikh Abed Elhakim Samara; Druze Community Leader Sheikh Mouafaq Tarrif; Head of the Greek Catholic Church, Haifa and the Galilee Archbishop Dr. Yosef Mata; Head of the Muslim Department in the Interior Ministry Sheikh Ziad Abu Moch; Inspector of Imams in the Interior Ministry Sheikh Jamal Al Obra; and Secretary-General of the Baháʼí Movement in Israel, Dr. David Rutstein.

“We believe that our role as senior representatives of the religions of the Holy Land is to stand at the forefront of the battle against the virus and to help the World Health Organization, health ministries, and healthcare systems to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic and save countless lives — by any means that the proper authorities may demand, and in particular the vaccination of all eligible populations,” said the leaders.

They also called on the world to abide by preventive measures, and on all believers to pray for the sick, for medical workers, and for the end of the pandemic.

President Isaac Herzog hosts interfaith leaders at his residence in Jerusalem, on November 11, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

“Together with prayers to the Almighty, we call on everyone to be vaccinated as soon as possible,” they said.

Representing Israel’s government were Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and national COVID czar Prof. Salman Zarka.

“Interfaith cooperation is hugely powerful,” said Herzog. “I think that the fact that this fantastic call is coming out of the Holy Land truly sets an example and serves as a model.”

President Isaac Herzog hosts interfaith leaders at his residence in Jerusalem, on November 11, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

“COVID does not respect borders,” he stressed. “Neither between states, nor communities, nor classes, nor religions. The success of the fight against COVID depends directly on religious leaders standing hand-in-hand, and all along we have seen responsible leadership that sees pikuach nefesh, saving lives, and the value of human life as a leading ideal. I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart, leaders from all the religions and denominations in Israel, for your central role in the national and world struggle against COVID.”

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