Saudi d?j? vu for Jones in Mea She'arim

US ambassador to Israel compares haredi community to religious communities in Saudi Arabia.

mecca 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
mecca 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
During a tour through the fervently religious Mea She'arim neighborhood of Jerusalem Monday, US Ambassador to Israel Richard H. Jones compared the haredi community to religious communities in Saudi Arabia. Commenting on the previous experiences he brings to his present job in Israel from countries such as Lebanon, Iraq and Kuwait, Jones, who speaks Arabic fluently, drew parallels between the outward practices of Orthodox Judaism and Islam. "Well, there are a lot of similarities, more than you would think," said Jones during a tour on foot of various haredi institutions. "Particularly, I served five years in Saudi Arabia and many of the religious practices are quite similar to Orthodox practices." Jones said that he was talking on a superficial level, referring primarily to the outwardly religious lives of the communities such as the dedication to the learning of holy texts, the adherence to a strict dietary law, conservatism, and large families. The ambassador made it clear that he was not talking about the political ideology, theology or content of the religious texts. Jones's stint as US Ambassador to Israel will end this summer. Before coming here, he served as the secretary of state's senior adviser and coordinator for Iraq policy, as the highest-ranking State Department official focusing entirely on Iraq policy. In addition to various ambassadorial posts, including Kazakhstan, Jones has served two terms on the board of the Saudi Arabian International School in Riyadh.