Only Israel can uphold freedom of worship at Jerusalem’s Christian holy sites,
Avinoam Bar-Yosef, the head of the Jewish People Policy Institute, said Saturday
at the closing of the think tank’s three-day conference in
Bar-Yosef said panelists debating the future of the city at
the conference were split over whether the government should reach a territorial
compromise with Palestinians or not, but were in near consensus that only Israel
could provide adequate security to Christian sites like the Holy Sepulchre in
the Old City.
“One of our biggest conclusions was that we should not
entrust the Palestinians with protecting the right of worship for Christians,”
Bar-Yosef said. “To a large extent Christians are pleased with Israel providing
security [rather] than Palestinians.”
Bar-Yosef said this was to do with
the plight of Christians in Gaza under Hamas and the emigration of Christians
from West Bank cities like Bethlehem, where Christians have lost their
historically held majority.
The former Ma’ariv journalist said it was too
early to talk in-depth over the rest of the discussions and that over the
following weeks his team of analysts would go over their data and release their
He did, however, elaborate a little on Israel-Diaspora
The equation between the two was changing, he said. For the
first time Israel was in a position where it could provide funds to help Jews
Quoting ideas raised during the sessions, Bar-Yosef said he
believed Israel should become more involved in reaching out to the Diaspora and
allocate special funds to accomplish that goal.
He added: “There were two
more groups worth mentioning: One was focused on European Jewry. For the first
time we had representatives come from all over the continent and talk about
demographic and sociological trends.
The other is the conversion bill
panel where different streams of Judaism came together to try and find a
solution to this problem.”
Responding to a question which raised the
issue, Bar-Yosef strongly defended his think tank’s independence, saying it was
not afraid to submit recommendations that were not in line with government
policy if it thought they benefited the Jewish people. “The institute has a
board of directors including people like [former US ambassador to the EU] Stuart
Eizenstat who would not lend it their name if it weren’t,” he said. “What
determines the independence of an institute is the material it publishes,” he
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