Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday welcomed Christian supporters of Israel from across the globe to his residence in Jerusalem to mark the 50th anniversary of the reunification of the holy city following the 1967 Six Day War.
The delegation of senior Christian community leaders included representatives of some 200 communities in more than 50 countries, and included around 30 members of parliaments. The visit was organized by Israel’s Knesset Christian Caucus and the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast movement.
Welcoming his visitors, Rivlin spoke of Jerusalem’s pluralism and Israel’s desire to live in peace, while emphasizing the Jewish people’s connection to the holy land.
“The city of Jerusalem, which was once a divided city – is the same city where Jews and Arabs, religious and secular people, find the space to live together, to meet and get to know each other, to build a shared Jerusalem, together,” Rivlin said.
“Jerusalem for me, is a microcosm of our ability, to live together, Jews, Muslims, Christians. Jerusalem is holy to everyone of faith. And Israel is proud to stand by the right of everyone to worship God as they believe.”
“We are asking our friends, our neighbors, our opponents, our enemies to understand that the Jewish people have returned home, and this is a fact,” he said, adding that after 50 years, “today, I have the right to be free in my city.”
“Perhaps today, as we mark half a century since the city was reunited, the time has come to bring peace to Jerusalem,” he urged.
Addressing the delegation, chairman of the Knesset Christian Caucus MK Robert Ilatov called on Christian communities worldwide “to stand, support, and pray for Jerusalem.”
“People of faith must take it upon themselves to educate on behalf of Jerusalem, to their friends, community leaders, and policy makers,” he said. “Let’s stand together, and build, invest, and bless Israel.”
Speaking on behalf of the visiting delegates, Swedish member of parliament Lars Adaktusson urged supporters of Israel to be vocal against what he said was “anti-Israel bias” in Europe.
“The European public for a long time has been living with the impression of Israel as the source of all problems, while the Palestinians have been represented by peace loving and trust worthy leaders, without any responsibility for violence or terror,” Adaktusson charged.
“Israel is, as we all know a, society with freedom of speech, pluralist, and the rule of law. As friends of Israel, the task is ours to provide the full picture of Israeli society to our compatriots,” he said.
Christians made up more than 18 percent of the population of the Holy Land when Israel was founded in 1948, but now form less than two percent.
Tens of thousands of Christians make pilgrimage to the Jerusalem each year to visit such holy sites as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the site where tradition says Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.
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