An Israeli delegation of religious leaders is going to present Syrian opposition members on Thursday with a list of sites in Syria holy to Judaism, to be safeguarded if Bashar Assad’s regime collapses.

While the erstwhile Turkish vision of brokering talks between Jerusalem and Damascus seems as distant as ever, an Israeli deputy minister and member of the Chief Rabbinical Council will be part of the Israeli interfaith delegation to Istanbul, which, besides meeting with a prominent local Muslim preacher, will also be holding talks on Thursday with the members of the Syrian opposition.

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Chief Rabbi of Holon Avraham Yosef, the son of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and a member of the rabbinate’s council, will be one of the more high-profile religious leaders in the group that took off from Israel on Wednesday – one week after the original delegation was postponed.

The delegation, under the auspices of Ayoub Kara, deputy minister for development of the Negev and Galilee, includes, among others, Rabbi Abraham Sherman of the High Rabbinic Court, Rabbi Yeshayahu Hollander, Bedouin Sheikh Atef al-Krenawi, and a Druse Sheikh and a Catholic priest.

A spokesman for Kara said on Wednesday that the opposition members expressed their consent to place guards at such sites, and prohibit the public to damage any religion’s venerated spaces.

Yosef is not known for being involved in interfaith dialogue, but an assistant to a Shas lawmaker suggested to Kara’s people that he join the group.

An official in the Chief Rabbinate stressed on Wednesday that the list of holy sites, and Yosef’s participation in the delegation, were not in the name of the rabbinate – nor did the Chief Rabbinical Council discuss the issue in full. The official, however, did not rule out the possibility that one of the council’s subcommittees dealt with the list of Jewish holy sites in Syria. The group will be meeting with Adnan Oktar, known also as Harun Yahya, a philosopher and theologian with a large following in the Muslim world.

Broadly speaking, the sides will be seeking ways to enhance understanding between the faiths, but a delegate promised a more detailed agenda on the planned Thursday press conference.

Kara’s spokesman, Mendi Safadi, said this was the first time a senior Israeli politician was officially invited to Turkey since relations between Jerusalem and Ankara went awry.

The invitation, issued by an institute for Islamic research, was coordinated with the Turkish Foreign Ministry and the Israeli Embassy.

Safadi stressed that Kara’s good relations with the Syrian politicians is what enabled the event’s occurrence.

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