Saudi King Abdullah 248.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Saudi Arabia invited an Israeli rabbi on Thursday to attend an interfaith conference to be held in Madrid.
Rabbi David Rosen, president of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, is the only rabbi who lives in Israel who was invited by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and the World Muslim League to the conference that is slated for July 16 to 18.
Other rabbis representing Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Judaism have also been invited.
Rosen said that the conference was the Saudis' first initiative to reach out to other religions in this way.
About 200 leaders have been invited to the conference.
Several months ago, Abdullah announced that he planned to hold a major interfaith summit in Saudia Arabia. The Madrid conference is a precursor to that much larger initiative.
Last month Sunni and Shi'ite leaders met in Saudi Arabia as the very first step toward a summit that would bring together Christian, Muslim and Jewish spiritual leaders.
"They are building up to the big summit in stages," Rosen said. "Apparently, it would be too big of a step for the Saudis to invite either of the two chief rabbis of Israel. But I hope they will reach that step eventually."
He has said in the past that if Israeli rabbis are left out of a Saudi summit the efficacy of the interfaith dialogue would be impaired.
The International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations is a broad-based coalition of organizations and denominations that represents world Jewry in its relations with other religions.
Rosen also heads interfaith relations for the American Jewish Committee.
He said he could face a danger of exploitation in a Saudi effort to improve its image, but that he hoped the conference would lead to further contacts with Jews and Israeli officials. If so, he said, "I think that will be a great achievement."