“Our sovereignty over Jerusalem will never compromise the freedom of worship and religion of all peoples of faith in Jerusalem and in all of Israel”
On the ‘Land of Monasteries’ project:
“Just recently I met with Pope Francis about this project and I hope that very soon we can go there together with you. We hope that when this project is complete, every Christian will be able to safely follow the route from Jerusalem to Nazareth via Jericho, and bathe in the waters of the River Jordan.:
On the legislation dealing with Church properties:
“The State of Israel has no intention of harming the property rights of the churches or their ability to realize their assets. We will never do that. I hope that discussion and dialogue will produce a solution.”
President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin today, Thursday 27 December / 19 Tevet hosted leaders of the Christian communities (https://mfa.gov.il/MFA/AboutIsrael/People/Pages/Focus%20on%20Israel%20-%20The%20Christian%20Communities%20of%20Isr.aspx) at the traditional New Year’s reception at Beit HaNasi. Minister of the Interior Aryeh Deri, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, the acting Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, the representative of the Armenian Patriarch, Custos of the Holy Land, head of the Franciscan Order in Israel and the head of the Greek Catholic Church in Haifa and the Galil also participated in the event. The Ala’a brothers entertained the audience with Christmas songs.
The president began by saying
“We meet in this period of holidays, in a gathering that has become a tradition. We meet in Jerusalem at this time when so many people from all around the world are focused on this holy city. I was born in Jerusalem; I have lived here all of my life. For me, Jerusalem is a holy city, but also, it is much more than that. I cannot imagine any other home, outside of Jerusalem. I know that you all share my love of Jerusalem, and I know, that you – like me – understand how delicate, the balance in this city is. You – like me – know that for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, living together in this city is not always simple. You – like me – believe that living together in this city, is the most moral thing to do. Unfortunately, not everyone shares this understanding. Like you, I see the role of the State of Israel, as guardians of this city. As guardians, our sovereignty over Jerusalem will never compromise the freedom of worship and religion of all peoples of faith in Jerusalem and in all of Israel.”
The president added
“Israel’s respect for freedom of religion and worship is also what stands at the very heart of our initiative to develop Qasr-el-Yahud, ‘The Land of Monasteries’ (https://www.parks.org.il/en/reserve-park/baptismal-site-on-the-jordan-river-qasr-al-yahud/). Today it is a place of pilgrimage for growing numbers of Christians from all over the world. As you know, the State of Israel is working to clear the landmines that are still in the area, and to return the monasteries nearby to their owners. Just recently, I met with Pope Francis about this project, And I hope that very soon we can go there together with you. We hope that when this project is complete, every Christian will be able to safely follow the route from Jerusalem to Nazareth via Jericho, and bathe in the waters of the River Jordan. Making this dream into a reality will allow us all, Christians, Muslims and Jews, to express our faith in humanity, and in our ability to work together. Even more, this project allows us -Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians, to express our faith that we are not doomed to live together we are destined to live together.
At the end of his remarks, President Rivlin referred to the legal question concerning church properties, saying “The State of Israel has no intention of harming the property rights of the churches or their ability to realize their assets to support their activities. We will never do that. The churches’ legal representatives were invited to take part in the legal process and to make sure that the agreement under discussion will not harm the churches later on. I hope that discussion and dialogue will produce a solution.”
Minister of the Interior Aryeh Deri:
“I am committed to freedom of religion and worship in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. It is no exaggeration to say that there has never been a time when Jerusalem enjoyed more religious freedom than it does under the State of Israel. We hope for peace in this small country, holier than any other. Peace is not an extravagance, it is a requirement. We need to work hard for it. We pave the way to peace in daily life with small steps.”
Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III wished the president a happy new year, and also related to the question of the legislation regarding church properties: “We are concerned that attempts to bring this discriminatory bill, that threatens the churches humanitarian mission, will continue. We are grateful for your wise intervention, and I reiterate our willingness for dialogue, but remind you that we stand united in our opposition.”
Attached photo credits: Mark Neiman (GPO)