Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Wednesday condemned recent hate crimes against Christians in the Holy Land, and pledged to uproot the phenomenon.
Herzog’s remarks came after a spate of attacks against Christians by Jewish extremists and follow a meeting the Jerusalem police chief held with Christian leaders in the capital to discuss security and cooperation.
“We must respect the members of all religions, we have committed to this since the dawn of our existence,” said Herzog during a visit to the Stella Maris Monastery in Haifa, which has been targeted by several attacks. “This is the most basic commandment of ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
The president, who was accompanied by the police commissioner and leaders of various Christian denominations in the Holy Land, reiterated Israel’s unequivocal commitment to freedom of worship and freedom of religion and pledged to clamp down on hate crime.
In recent months, ultra-Orthodox Jews have spat at Christian clergy in Jerusalem and vandalized holy sites and cemeteries.
“I view this phenomenon as extreme and unacceptable in any shape or form,” said Herzog. “This phenomenon needs to be uprooted, and I am very grateful to the Israel Police and the law enforcement agencies for taking this issue seriously.”
He continued: “We are committed to the story of the Christian denominations in the Holy Land, a special and unique story which has inspired people around the world—and not without reason, because here in the Holy Land the three great monotheistic religions emerged, and we must do everything so that the common life continues together.”
The hate crimes are an aberration in the only state in the region where the Christian population is steadily growing, while Christians in other countries are persecuted and under religious duress.
“My message is both internally to all Christians as citizens of Israel and to all the dwellers and worshipers from all over the world: The Christian communities are safe and sound and protected and thriving in the Holy Land,” said Herzog.
“The Israel Police is engaging in an array of activities to eradicate the incidents and trends that affect the sense of security for all of us,” Israel Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai said. “We are here to reassure you of that and to offer any assistance that may be required.”
The president’s visit came a day after the Jerusalem police chief met with Christian religious leaders in the capital.
“We will continue to work to safeguard the peace and security of people of all faiths and denominations,” said Jerusalem District Police chief Doron Turgeman. “Strengthening cooperation and addressing hate crimes remain top priorities.”
Father Jean Joseph Bergara, the abbot of Stella Maris, thanked the Israel Police, Haifa Mayor Einat Kalisch-Rotem “and everyone who has expressed support not only with words but also with very clear actions against all these phenomena, on behalf of all the Christian denominations here in Israel.”
He continued: “We need to work together to encourage our dialogue, our solidarity and our brotherhood, because we belong to the same country and live in the same places. We want to live together in peace and harmony. Thank you for your cooperation and support. We are all children of the same God.”