By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency
Jerusalem, Israel — January 1, 2022 … President Isaac Herzog and First Lady Michal Herzog hosted the leaders of the Christian churches in the Holy Land for Israel’s traditional New Year’s Eve reception at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.
Joining the reception were Israel Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked; Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem; Archbishop Battista Pietro Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem; Fr. Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land (Head of the Franciscan Order in Israel); Archbishop Sevan Gharibian, Chief Sacristan, Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem; Archbishop Dr. Amer Yousef Matta, Head for the Greek Catholic Church of Haifa and all Galilee; Archbishop Dr. Hosam Naoum, Head of the Anglican Evangelical Episcopal Church in Israel; Archbishop Yaser Al-Ayyash, Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem of the Greek Catholic Patriarch; Fr. Antonios Alorshleme, representative of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem; Abba Zebeaman Samuel Melikamu, Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Israel; Archbishop Moussa El-Hage, Maronite Patriarchal Exarch in Jerusalem; Fr. Simon, representative of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem; Bishop Camil Semaan, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarch in Jerusalem; Bishop Sani-Ibrahim Azar, Head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Israel; Propst Joachim Lenz, Head of the German Lutheran Church in Israel. Among the lay leaders: Supreme Court Justice George Kara and Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam.
“The diverse Christian communities that you lead, with which Israel has been blessed, have been a gift to the people of the State of Israel,” said President Herzog. “Each community is an integral part of the vibrant mosaic that makes up the State of Israel, and you have truly enriched our nation and our land, as have our many Christian friends around the world.”
Herzog continued: “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. We can do this together, united by our common values rather than dividing the world with differences.”
“Today, as historic winds of peace blow through our region, all the Children of Abraham – Christians, Muslims and Jews- can come together once again. Indeed, it is time to build a new partnership between Middle Eastern faiths, based as much on our similarities as on our unique, individual humanity.”
The President stated: “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. 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.”
The President proceeded to ask church leaders to relay his warmest wishes to Christian communities around the globe and urged them to emphasize the importance of following public health guidelines in their communities during the coronavirus pandemic.
Herzog concluded by wishing the church leaders and their communities a Happy New Year in English, Hebrew, and Arabic: “May we all be blessed with a happy and healthy New Year, and may we work together to expand the circle of peace and tolerance in the Holy Land, in our region, and around the world.”
Israel Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said: “I want to wish all of you a healthy and joyful New Year, a year in which we build new bonds of friendship and cooperation between all of the religious communities of the region, a year in which our prayers for peace are answered. While we may have differences in belief, we all share a deep love for the Holy Land, a deep connection to its history, and a deep belief in its future as a source of blessing for the entire world.”
Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, told the President on behalf of the Church leaders: “We 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. We the heads of the churches in Jerusalem remain grateful for the declared commitment of the Israeli government to uphold a safe and secure home for Christians in the Holy Land and to preserve the Christian communities as an integral part of the tapestry of the modern community.”