The Council of Religious Community Leaders in Israel conducted an historic visit to Poland (30 October – 2 November 2016). Members of the Council met Polish religious leaders and visited Jewish heritage sites, the Warsaw Ghetto monument and the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, where they held an interfaith pray service, and had an inter-religious dialogue with their Polish counterparts. The staff of the Israeli embassy in Warsaw, headed by Ambassador Anna Azari, was responsible for arranging the delegation’s itinerary.
The declaration issued by the Council states: “As the leaders of the official religious communities in Israel, we have decided to embark together on an historic visit to Poland, and to the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau. This visit is meant to honor the memory of millions of Jews and other victims of the Holocaust, and to express the determination of the leaders of the religious communities in Israel to do everything in their power to prevent the recurrence of such atrocities.
”We call on all world leaders to act, in their countries and through the United Nations, to act with unwavering resoluteness against antisemitism, hatred of the other, which once again plague contemporary society.
“We declare our commitment to cooperate and to do everything in our power to carry out this important call in the Holy Land as well, to strengthen the harmony and understanding that exist in Israel among the various religious communities.
“In order to establish peace and mutual respect among members of religions throughout the world and in our country, we must educate our communities and children accordingly, and prevent affront to the feelings and beliefs of others.
“Here, in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the most horrific crimes against humanity in history and the symbol of ultimate evil, where the murder of millions of Jews and others – men, women and children – was perpetrated by Nazi Germany, we declare our commitment to the sanctity of human life. We repudiate racism, fanaticism and extremism, particularly when these are committed, allegedly in the name of religion and in so doing desecrate religion.
“The Council of Religious Community Leaders in Israel calls for an end to war and a prayer for peace in keeping with the vision of the prophets: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not take up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war anymore’ (Isaiah 2:4).”
The Council of Religious Community Leaders in Israel was established in 2007 as a result of a joint initiative of the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Council had its first meeting on 27 June 2007. Its members are the leaders of all the major religions in Israel: The Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the Muslim religious establishment, the Christian churches in the Holy Land, the Druze Religious Authority, the Ahmadiyya Muslim, Baha’i and Samaritan communities. Upon its establishment, all the members agreed on a joint declaration in which they stated their commitment to the sanctity of human life and denounced all types of violence against innocent people, especially when such acts of violence are perpetrated in the name of religion.