President Reuven Rivlin and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in Jerusalem. (Mark Neiman/GPO) (Mark Neiman/GPO)
Rivlin & Archbishop of Canterbury Welby

“For the last 150 years there has been a Jewish majority in Jerusalem. Even under the Ottoman Empire, there was a Jewish majority in Jerusalem,” Rivlin stated.

President Reuven Rivlin countered Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s claim that Israel was attempting to “judaize” Jerusalem by noting that the Jewish majority in Israel’s capital dates back to the Ottoman period.

“We have heard voices which attack Israel for building Jewish life in Jerusalem,” Rivlin said Tuesday, referring to Erdogan’s statements, during a meeting with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in Jerusalem. “I must tell these people, for the last 150 years there has been a Jewish majority in Jerusalem. Even under the Ottoman Empire there was a Jewish majority in Jerusalem.”

The Ottoman Empire took over Jerusalem in 1517, and the British seized control of the holy city 400 years later at the end of World War I.

Rivlin added, “Under Israeli sovereignty, we continue to build Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people. There is no doubt Jerusalem is a microcosm of our ability to live together. And we will continue to ensure freedom of religion for all faiths.”

Following a speech at a Turkish conference Monday, in which Erdogan accused Israel of “racist and discriminatory” policies against the Palestinians and which sparked a diplomatic spat with Israel, he met with Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Istanbul. They reportedly discussed ways to “protect Jerusalem against attempts of judaization.”

Israel’s Commitment to its Christians

During the meeting, Rivlin underscored Israel’s commitment to its Christian minority.

“Israel is the only country in the Middle East where the Christian community is flourishing. And Israel is committed to the values of freedom of religion for all people of faith. This is our value and our duty as a Jewish-democratic state,” he stated.

Most Christian communities in the Middle East, some of the most ancient in the world, have vanished due to Islamic persecution.

“We are at the 100th anniversary of Balfour, and it has led to extraordinary things,” Welby said. “For some of us who are profound friends of Israel, who feel huge admiration, deep affection, and who loathe and hate anti-Semitism and speak against it wherever it occurs, whether it is implicit or explicit, there is an element of unfinished business. Because until there is peace in the region, the Balfour Declaration has an element of unfinished business.”

The Balfour Declaration was signed by then-Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour in 1917, declaring the support of the British government for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people. It is widely considered to be a seminal document in the process creating the legal basis for the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

At the end of their meeting, Rivlin extended a new invitation to the British Royal Family to visit Israel. The first one was turned down, after the UK Foreign Office reportedly vetoed the possibility of a visit by Prince Charles to the Jewish state.

By: and United with Israel Staff