Streets of Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
While common for rabbis, priests and imams to visit Jerusalem, the Holy City is not necessarily at the top of the mustdo list for Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Shinto, Jain and Confucian leaders.
But this might change if a unique conference for spiritual leaders of the eastern religions to be held in Jerusalem at the end of September is successful.
The Foreign Ministry and the American Jewish Committee are organizing the four -day conference for about a dozen spiritual leaders from East, South and Southeast Asia.
Akiva Tor, the head of the Foreign Ministry’s bureau for World Jewish Affairs and World Religions, said the idea is that such a dialogue will help underpin and support the blooming strategic political and economic ties currently developing between Israel and the countries of the East.
“When we deal with Arab or Christian states, we have a fairly deep understanding of the cultures we are relating to,” Tor said. “But when we have deep relations with countries like Japan, India, Burma or Vietnam, we have strong political and economic connections, we share strategic interests, but we don’t know each other in terms of our civilizations.
Our civilizations are very different, and have had little contact in the past.”
This gathering is an effort to begin to remedy that situation.
Tor said the group will engage in a dialogue with Israeli religious, intellectual and political leaders, and provide the participants an opportunity for “better understanding the living reality of the State of Israel and its meaning for the Jewish people.”
Likewise, he said, it will “present an important opportunity for Israel’s leadership to develop a deeper understanding of contemporary eastern civilization, and the cultural framework within which Israel’s relations are growing.”
President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will likely address the group, the proceedings of the gathering will be published and a joint statement of principles regarding the importance of this type of dialogue will be presented.
A list of the names of the participants has not yet been made public.