The Forum of Religious leaders in Israel issued a joint statement on Wednesday afternoon calling for an end to bloodshed in the region.
The group – including Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, Sheikh Muhammad Kiwan, an imam and chairman of the Council of Muslim Leaders in Israel, Greek-Orthodox Patriarch Theophillis III, Armenian Patriarch Nourhan Manougian and spiritual leader of the Druse community in Israel Sheikh Muafak Tarif, among others – convened together with President-elect Reuven Rivlin at the offices of the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem.
The meeting was called in light of the outbreak of hostilities between Israel and the Hamas regime in Gaza, as well as the severe tensions and communal violence that has occurred in recent days.
Speaking first, Lau said everyone should condemn violence against innocent people, noting that he had vehemently denounced the murder of Arab teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir, as well as the slaying of Jewish youths Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah earlier this month.
“Sometimes there is no choice but to strike and to protect our society,” the chief rabbi added, saying that the IDF conducts a practice of warning people to evacuate areas which are likely to be bombed to avoid harming civilians, “as opposed to others who fire missiles into population centers and harm innocents.”
“I call on everyone to protect and venerate life and its unique value,” Lau continued, “and to know how to respect our fellow man and to conduct disagreements in a respectful and appropriate way which preserves life.”
Rivlin echoed Lau’s words, saying there was “an expectation from the religious leadership to unite in clear condemnation of all violence and bloodshed.”
“There is an especially heavy responsibility on religious leaders to reduce the flames and lower tensions, and to find a way for the voice of reason to prevail,” he continued.
“May we serve as guides for all our communities. We are not doomed to live together but destined to live together,” Rivlin averred.
Kiwan called for all sides to promote “brotherhood, peace and respect,” between societies and to do everything possible to advance peace.
“I pray we may go out from this meeting with one voice that will be heard throughout the world that we affirm that there is nothing more precious than human life and any act of desecration must be categorically condemned,” Kiwan said.
Theophillis III said Christian leaders were committed to a mission of prayer for peace and reconciliation, which he said could be achieved “not through tanks on both banks of the river but through the eradication of prejudice, hatred and bigotry, and to try our best to make it clear that life is indeed very holy, because we are made in the image of God and so everyone is entitled to freedom and respect regardless of color, ethnicity or religious affiliation.”