Rabbi Moshe Sebbag shows a Torah scroll to Secretary General of the Muslim World League Dr. Muhammad Abdul-Kareem al-Issa and Khalid bin Mohammed Al Angari, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to France, during thier visit to the Great Synagogue of Paris this week. .
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In a historic first and possible nod to Israel, two top officials from Saudi Arabia – both former government ministers – visited a synagogue in Paris this week, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The officials were Secretary General of the Muslim World League Dr. Muhammad Abdul-Kareem al-Issa, a former Saudi justice minister, and Khalid bin Mohammed Al Angari, a former Saudi education minister who currently serves as Riyadh’s ambassador to France.
The Muslim World League is an international Islamic NGO based in Mecca that works to spread Islam. Alongside al-Issa’s work in the league, he also serves as an official adviser to the royal court in Riyadh and to the Saudi minister of defense.
The pair, who visited the Grand Synagogue in Paris on Monday, were hosted by France’s Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia and the synagogue’s rabbi, Moshe Sebbag.
Sebbag and Korsia removed a Torah scroll from the Ark during the visit and showed it to the Saudi officials, explaining the significance of the text and showing them various ornaments in the sanctuary.
“This was very exciting,” Sebbag told the Post
on Wednesday. “This was their first time in a synagogue, and I was frankly surprised that they came.”
The Saudi officials told their hosts that it was their first time visiting a synagogue.
Their visit came amid reports of growing ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and just a few days after IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot gave an interview to a London-based Saudi newspaper in which he said that Israel would be prepared to share intelligence on Iran with the kingdom.
In addition, Likud Minister Yuval Steinitz – a member of the security cabinet – revealed on Sunday that Israel had covert ties with the Saudis.
“We have ties that are indeed partly covert with many Muslim and Arab countries, and usually [we are] the party that is not ashamed,” Steinitz said. “It’s the other side that is interested in keeping the ties quiet. With us, usually, there is no problem, but we respect the other side’s wish, when ties are developing – whether it’s with Saudi Arabia or with other Arab countries or other Muslim countries.”
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