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Herzog holds New Year’s reception for church leaders: ‘I am committed to freedom of worship’

President Isaac Herzog and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked (center) pose for a photo with church leaders in Jerusalem on December 29, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked (center) pose for a photo with church leaders in Jerusalem on December 29, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

President Isaac Herzog hosts a traditional New Year’s Eve reception for the heads of the Christian churches in the Holy Land, alongside Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked.

“We are all children of the Almighty God, the same God, and we all dream of a better world by filling it with peace, kindness, charity and mercy,” Herzog says. “We can do this together, united by our common values rather than dividing the world with differences.”

“As president of the State of Israel, I am wholeheartedly committed to preserving absolute freedom of religion and worship for members of all faiths in this Holy Land,” Herzog adds. “I know Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked joins me in assuring you that we will stand strong against any forms of racism, discrimination, or extremism, and we will reject any assault or threat on religious communities, leaders, or houses of worship.”

Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, tells the president that the church leaders are “particularly appreciative of your steadfast commitment to the integrity of the multicultural, multiethnic and multireligious nature of our region and your defense of the rights of all those who call the Holy Land our home.”

He said the leaders are “grateful for the declared commitment of the Israeli government to uphold a safe and secure home for Christians in the Holy Land.”

Earlier this month, Christian leaders in the Holy Land warned that their communities are under threat of being driven from the region by extremist Israeli radical groups, and called for dialogue on preserving their presence.

The patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem issued a joint statement similarly warning of the danger posed by radical groups they said are aiming at “diminishing the Christian presence.”

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