Peres: Religious leaders obligated to denounce terror

President visits Al Jazaar Mosque in Acre after hosting Iftar dinner in Jerusalem, decries lack of equality between Jews and Arabs in Israel.

Peres Mosque 311 (photo credit: Mark Neiman )
Peres Mosque 311
(photo credit: Mark Neiman )
After hosting Muslim leaders at an Iftar dinner in Jerusalem on Sunday night, it was the turn of a Muslim leader to host the president in the Al-Jazaar Mosque in Acre on Tuesday.
Shimon Peres was greeted by Sheikh Samir Assi, the imam of Al-Jazaar, who has a history of working with religious leaders of other faiths, and who earlier this year, paid a visit to Acre’s Chabad House to meet with Rabbi Nosson Yitzchok Oirechman, who heads the Chabad community in Acre, and with whom he found he had much in common.
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The Al-Jazaar Mosque, which was constructed more than two hundred years ago, is considered to be the second most important mosque in Israel, but unlike Al-Aksa, is not mired in political controversy, which is one of the reasons Peres chose to go there to express his good wishes to the Muslim population of Israel and the world during Ramadan.
Before entering the inner sanctum of the mosque, Peres, in respect of Muslim tradition, removed his shoes, and then accompanied by Assi, entered the mosque where Assi explained the meaning of Ramadan and of the prayers recited during the holy month.
Assi told Peres Acre is a city that demonstrates that harmonious co-existence is possible.
He said there was friendship and cooperation between Jews and Arabs, and mutual tolerance and patience.
Together with Peres, Assi offered a prayer for peace, not only for the region, but for the world, and that it should be a lasting peace in region in the face of the revolutionary trend in the Arab world.
In thanking Assi for his hospitality and after expressing the appropriate blessing, Peres declared spiritual leaders have an important role to play in the advancement of peace and are obligated to denounce terror and bloodshed.
“We have to unite our forces to put out fires, and we have to be emissaries who carry the message of peace,” he said.
“Religious faiths have a negative attitude towards terror, which brings only bloodshed, sorrow and tears.”
Peres also related his words to the most recent developments in Libya, and voiced the hope that the people of the region would in the future know freedom from oppression, poverty and hunger.
“We are witnesses to the fact that the Libyan people have rejected a dictatorial and corrupt leadership and are now seeking peace and freedom,” he said.
There is a similar desire in Syria, and Peres added he was amazed at the courage of the people there who continue to oppose the regime, even at the risk of their lives.
At the conclusion of the president’s visit to the mosque he and Assi met with 50 Muslim notables who live in Acre and discussed the importance of establishing equality between Jews and Arabs, who according to law have equal rights, although this is not always evident in the treatment accorded to Arab citizens.
In this context Peres deplored the gap that exists between Arabs and Jews, and said there was no justification for it and that resources must be fairly divided in proportion to the Arab ratio in the total population.