(JNS.org) In his annual Christmas message, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized the common bonds that Jews and Christians share as well as the thriving Christian community in Israel.
“To all of our Christian friends around the world, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,” Netanyahu said in a video message from the courtyard of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), one of the world’s largest pro-Israel Christian ministries, with branches in more than 85 nations and supporters in 160 countries.
Netanyahu added that he is “proud” of Israel’s relationship with the Christian community and “the bond with you because we all know that this land of Israel is the land of our common heritage. It changed the story of humanity, it changed civilization.”
At the same time, Netanyahu noted that Christians and Jews are under threat from the “forces of intolerance” and “barbarism,” and that he is proud that Israel is the only place in the Middle East where the Christian population is thriving.
“I'm proud of the fact that in Israel, this is the one place in the Middle East that the Christian community not only survives but thrives and it's no accident. It’s because of our commitment to religious freedom; it's because of our embrace of our heritage; it's because of our embrace of our common future,” Netanyahu said.
ICEJ Executive Director Dr. Jürgen Bühler responded to Netanyahu’s statement by wishing the Jewish people a “Happy Hanukkah” and giving the Israeli leader a silver Hanukkah dreidel as a gift.
“It was a great honor to host the Prime Minister at our Embassy headquarters and to receive his good holiday wishes for Christmas,” said Bühler.
“This indeed is a season when both communities can celebrate the triumph of light over darkness. And this timely display of solidarity shows once more that Israel is a country where religious freedoms are not only safeguarded but even encouraged,” he added.