Unlike other countries in the Middle East, where Christian communities are shrinking and many of them are in danger, in Israel there is a strong and growing Christian community that participates fully in the life of the country, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Monday in a taped Christmas greeting.
"Israel is proud of its record of religious tolerance and pluralism, and Israel will continue to protect freedom of religion for all," Netanyahu said. "And we will continue to safeguard places of Christian worship throughout our country."
In an apparent reference to a spate of vandalism against Christian sites over the last year, Netanyahu – who has come out forcefully against such actions – said "we will not tolerate any acts of violence or discrimination against any place of worship This is not our way, and this is something we cannot accept."
The Prime Minister invited the world's Christians to "recall the places where Judaism and Christianity emerged, and then come see our ancient land with your own eyes. Visit Nazareth and Bethlehem, wade into the Jordan river, stand on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and next year come visit our eternal capital of Jerusalem."