This is a moment of genuine crisis, and the obligation to avert the outbreak of violence rests upon the shoulders of each and every one of us. Israel is committed to the status quo, is vigilant in its enforcement, and will ensure it is maintained.
(Communicated by the President’s Spokesperson)
Out of the desire to promote a message of calm and tolerance especially in the run up to the upcoming Jewish, Muslim, & Christian festivals, and in an emotional call to the religious leaders of the various communities to work to reduce tensions, President Reuven Rivlin today (Wednesday) convened a meeting of the Council of Faith Community Leaders in Israel, at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. The meeting was arranged following consultations with the relevant authorities in both the Prime Minister’s Office and the National Security Council. The meeting was attended by among others; Israeli Chief Rabbi, David Lau; Chair of the Council of Muslim Religious Leaders, Sheikh Mohammed Kaiyuan; Spiritual Leader of the Druze Community, Sheikh Muwaffak Tarīf; and Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III.
"This meeting is not ceremonial," the President began by saying, "we are dealing here with human lives; with the blood that has been spilled, and with the blood that God forbid may yet be spilled. This is a moment of genuine crisis, and the obligation to avert the outbreak of violence which threatens the innocent, rests upon the shoulders of each and every one of us. Any incitement and utterance has the ability to ignite this entire region, and sadly our land is burning. We cannot simply wash our hands, if we do not take responsibility, each of us before our communities."
President Rivlin continued, "This place, to which we all belong, is bleeding from many long months of frustration and anger, from blind hatred and fear. Let us not delude ourselves, this place, our home, is engulfed in the flames of incitement some of which originates in the words of well known, and senior religious leaders, who purport to speak in the name of religious truth. There are legal paths to combat incitement, and the legal system must exercise them to the fullest extent. Yet, let’s face facts, enforcement alone cannot overcome incitement. Incitement breeds on the statements of leaders, and their silence is no less dangerous. And incitement can be arrested by a leadership which presents an opposite model; a model of tolerance, a model of respect for others, a model of patience. Thus, your presence here today is of immeasurable importance. Your presence here sanctifies the name of God."
The President noted the importance of the period in the light of the upcoming different faith festivals, "We are standing here today at the beginning of a period full of religious festivals and celebrations; the Jewish festival of Passover, the Orthodox Easter, the festival of Nabi Shu’ayb, and the Night of Isra and Mi’raj. Such festive and joyous periods have more than once turned into flash-points of tension, friction, and violence. In particular this is true of this city, holy to us all, the city of Jerusalem. Already now, the tension has increased across the whole city, and in particular, in the Holy Basin, and around the Temple Mount itself. I want to make my words very clear on this issue, and call on you to convey these messages to your communities too – the State of Israel is committed and obligated to the well-being of all faith communities, and to the freedoms of worship and religion. Moreover, the State of Israel is fully committed to the strict preservation of the status quo on the Temple Mount, and all the other holy places. Presidents and other heads of states and countries approach me, having heard all sorts of libelous propaganda, and ask me if it is true that we intend to alter the status quo, and the answer is – Israel is committed to the status quo, is vigilant in its enforcement, and will ensure it is maintained. It is easy to turn Jerusalem into a place of conflict, yet it is our duty, the duty of all who love Jerusalem and believe in its holiness, to be insistent in condemning attempts to ignite the flames of religious war in Jerusalem."
Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Rabbi Shlomo Amar said, "We have met together in this framework for nine years, during which we have endured some difficult times. Even at times such as these we have known how to maintain our good relations and to promote understanding. How painful it is to think of the senseless loss of lives. And how much of a shame it is that we don’t resolve the problems in the honorable manner. We, people of faith, can prepare the groundwork for building peace. Each of those sitting here contributes fully to that goal. We must convey this good will to all the public, so they will understand that we must talk together. All of us believe in one God, and in the wisdom of man to act with consideration. May God help us, and may He bring us peace, and help us gain in wisdom and care. In every place there are extremists, yet we will not surrender or throw up our hands. We will gather our strength, and peace will guide us in love and friendship."
Spiritual Leader of the Druze Community, Sheikh Muwaffak Tarīf said, "We must make heard a clear, strong, and unequivocal voice that all faiths renounce and condemn all forms of violence. All faiths, and all holy scriptures, call for respecting the other, to honor fellow man, regardless of faith, race, or sex. Each of us in our communities is needed to convey the message of this meeting – there is no such thing as violence in the name of God. On the contrary, faith and worship are the bridge to brotherhood and unity. Faith is the path to bringing peace and quiet to all peoples. Our coming together today must be a call to the leaders of the region, and primarily Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman of the Palestinian Authority to strive for the sake of reaching peace, and bringing an end to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Let us do all we can to turn the lives of those living here in this state into a celebration every day of the year."
Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III said, "We must stand united in the face of all forms of violence, and we appreciate greatly Mr. President, your strong position on the issue. Sin and evil are not created inherent to man, free will of man leads there and to violence, and arrogance is the worst kind of expression of free will. We are full of hope that the declaration that we are making here, with the strength of love and justice, will lead to clam and security."
Chair of the Council of Muslim Religious Leaders, Sheikh Mohammed Kaiyuan said, "We have come for the sake of peace. We have come to prevent violence in society, and to call on all to love those who love God. We have come together, different leaders working night and day in order to bring reconciliation and tolerance between all the different faiths. There is no dispute between us, despite the different beliefs, and if there are disagreements, we endeavor to reconcile them. We condemn violence and terror in the name of any faith; Jewish, Muslim, or Christian. It is forbidden and horrific in the eyes of religion. God says, it is forbidden to kill the innocent. There are around 400 Imams calling for peace, reconciliation, and love. We respect the honor of our brother, not the other – because we are all brothers. God says, there is no difference between men, and we must work for unity – each of us for each other."
The meeting concluded with a joint statement by the Council of Faith Community Leaders in Israel, which read: "We, leaders of faith communities in the State of Israel, representatives of the Council of Faith Community Leaders, believers in the Creator of the World, who rules with kindness and mercy, and demands of us that we live with each and every one in peace and respect, affirm our commitment to cooperation, and to do all in our power to implement this important commandment in the Holy Land. We hereby declare our commitment to the sanctity of life, and denounce all forms of physical or verbal violence against the innocent, in particular instances when such acts are committed in the name of religion, which are a desecration of the Name of God. We believe in full faith, that in the State of Israel, there is place for us all to live in mutual respect, security, peace, each one according to their belief and faith. In order to bring about peace and mutual respect between the different faith communities in our land, it is beholden upon us to educate our children and communities accordingly, to respect and recognize the other, and to avoid insult or offence to the beliefs of others. The holy sites are the heritage of our forefathers, and it is our obligation to safeguard them as our cultural and religious inheritance. We must ensure their preservation, their unique character, and to protect them from all violence and desecration. We call on all our communities to honor the holy sites, and prevent them from any harm or desecration. We express our support for President of Israel Reuven Rivlin, and for his deeds for the sake of the unity of the people, and brining to gather the religions of the land. Together with the President, we pray to God that He will instill peace and security in our midst, and throughout the region."