Israeli Pres. Herzog meets with Christian leaders, calls for unity to eradicate jihadist ideology

Hamas militants parade at a rally just over a week after a cease-fire was reached in an 11-day war between Hamas and Israel.
Hamas militants parade at a rally just over a week after a cease-fire was reached in an 11-day war between Hamas and Israel. | Middle East Images via AFP via Getty Images/Hosam Salem

Israeli President Isaac Herzog convened a meeting with leaders of various Christian communities in the Holy Land to discuss the ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza and the broader implications for religious communities in the region, emphasizing the threat of “extreme fundamentalist Islam.”

At the gathering held at the President’s Residence, Herzog spoke candidly about the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, describing it as a barbaric act that targeted innocent people of diverse nationalities, including members of the Christian community, according to a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Herzog emphasized that such violence is antithetical to the teachings of major religions.

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“There are also many people of the Christian communities who are affected by these horrors. Nothing of this is compatible with the Gospels, with the writing of the Gospels, with the teaching of Jesus Christ, or the teachings of course of the Jewish faith, and also with moderate Islam. Our problem — all of us — is with extreme fundamentalist Islam, which does not accommodate you or us,” he said.

“It’s an expression of an empire of evil that emanates from Tehran, which believes in jihadist ideology, which we all have to eradicate. And that is why this war was forced upon us,” the president added.

The gathering included high-ranking Christian dignitaries such as Greek Patriarch Theophilos III, Armenian Patriarch Nourhan Manougian, and Latin Patriarch Cardinal Battista Pietro Pizzaballa, among others.

Herzog called for a unified condemnation of terrorism from Christian leaders worldwide.

“In the last year I’ve taken clear steps to defend and to protect Christian communities in the Holy Land. I do expect all religious leaders and all voices of the Christian world to express clear condemnation of these horrors, and to support our efforts to eradicate evil from the face of the Holy Land, and enable a different future for Israelis, Palestinians, and the region as a whole,” the president told the gathering.

“There were some deeply disappointing comments by certain very important leaders in the Christian world and we expect a different direction because in the end, we are all dealing with something which is very clear: are we in favor of good, or we favor of evil. Israel is clearly undoubtedly doing its best. And it’s fighting not only for us against Hamas, but for the world at large, for the voices of morality,” Herzog added.

In his speech, Herzog also extended Christmas and New Year greetings to the Christian community, expressing hope for peace and happiness in the region.

Greek Patriarch Theophilos III responded by expressing gratitude for Herzog’s support of the Christian community in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, The Times of Israel reported, saying he also underscored the shared moral tradition that values human life and dignity, advocating for freedom, safety and security for all.

The meeting concluded with President Herzog engaging with leaders of the Evangelical community in Israel, who reportedly expressed their solidarity with Israel and condemned the acts of terrorism perpetrated by Hamas.

According to claims by the Hamas-controlled Gaza health ministry, more than 18,800 people had died, as of Tuesday, since the war began after Hamas carried out terror attacks against Israel on Oct. 7, according to the Times of Israel. The outlet said these figures were thought to include around 7,000 members or affiliates of Hamas, in addition to civilians who were casualties of Palestinian rockets that misfired.

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