Israeli President Reuven Rivlin met with European Catholic leaders at his residence in Jerusalem on Wednesday, urging an interfaith response to terrorism and stressing Israel’s commitment to freedom of religion and worship.
“On the evening of Rosh Hashanah, Alexander Levlovitz, a Jerusalemite, a family man, was murdered when terrorists threw rocks at his car, forcing him off the road,” Rivlin told the Catholic leaders. “This bloody attack shows us once again that terror is terror—whether with rocks, guns, or other weapons—and it shows us we must act firmly against all terrorism.”
Rivlin mentioned his recent meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, where he stressed the importance of freedom of worship and religion in Israel.
“In the last years the Christian communities of the Middle East have paid a heavy price for their faith. Israel, as a Jewish and democratic state, is proud that Christians in Israel enjoy freedom of worship, freedom of religion, and do not fear for their lives,” he said.
Rivlin also condemned the recent vandalism against Christian sites in Israel and said the Israeli government “stood together” with the Christian community.
“It is not enough for us, for Israel, to only be a safe haven for the Christian community. We want the community to flourish, to play a part in the Israeli experience, and to be part of Israeli society,” he said.
Cardinal Peter Erdo, president of the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe, said he “admired the dynamism and the modern vitality” of Israel and its people.
“Mutual knowledge and mutual understanding are what is most important for constructive dialogue between people of different cultures and religions. For this we believe it is important that in all our countries, Christians and society in general form a realistic and empathetic view of the history of the Jewish People and Israel,” Erdo said.