Monday, May 11, 2009

Welcome remarks by Pres Peres to Pope Benedict XVI at Ben-Gurion Airport

I see your visit here, to the Holy Land, as an important spiritual mission of the highest order: a mission of peace. A mission of planting seeds of tolerance and and uprooting the weeds of fanaticism. I appreciate your stances and your actions to bring down the level of violence and hatred in the world. I am certain that this will be a continuation of the dialogue between Judaism and Christianity in the spirit of the Prophets.

I honor your efforts to feed the hungry and to quench man's thirst for faith in man and in the Creator of the Universe. In our country, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Bedouins, and Circassians all live together. They live on the same earth. They live under the same sky. They pray to almighty God. Everyone can pray in his own language, according to his own prayerbook, without any outside interference.

Israel safeguards the absolute freedom of religious practice and free access to holy places. We are always happy to receive pilgrims from throughout the world in the Holy Land.

Since the days of Abraham our forefather, we have believed that man should aspire to be a desirable guest and a gracious host.

Abraham's tent was open to all directions. It was easy for the pure air and wind to enter from north, south, east, and west.

As it is written in the Book of Isaiah:

כִּי בֵיתִי, בֵּית-תְּפִלָּה יִקָּרֵא לְכָל-הָעַמִּים - ישעיהו פרק נ"ו, פסוק ז'
["My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations"- Isaiah 56:7]
Our country is poor in resources, but rich in faith. Our country is half-desert, but we have built flourishing commerce on the strength of human capital, and a society seeking justice for every child born.

We have made peace with Egypt and Jordan, and we are in negotiations to make peace with the Palestinians, and even to arrive at a comprehensive regional peace.

Your visit here brings a blessed understanding between religions and spreads peace near and far. Historic Israel and the renewed Israel together welcome your arrival as paving the great road to peace from city to city.

Welcome to the Holy Land. Welcome to Jerusalem.

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