Isaac Herzog, the 11th President of the State of Israel, hosted 200 guests at an interfaith iftar at his home last Wednesday night—two nights before Passover.
Among those attending were heads of several diplomatic missions in Israel, including Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Turkey, members of the Knesset, Arab dignitaries and social activists.
President Herzog began his speech in Arabic: “My dear guests, Muslim brothers and sisters, from near and far, welcome. It is the month of Ramadan, and we are happy it is here. Welcome, Ramadan month. Ahlan wa Sahlan, welcome, dear guests. Welcome to your home. The home of the President of the State is the home of all Israelis, and my wife Michal and I are very happy that you are here.”
He expressed it was his “great honor “ to meet with his guests “as the President of the State of Israel, the President of the Israeli people, the President of Israel's Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Druze, and Circassian citizens, members of all religions and all communities.”
And despite recent violence, Herzog voiced his commitment and optimism.
He described Ramadan as “a month of humility and piety, of moderation, of compassion and charity, of faith in God, of family and community.” And he felt “a profound sense of identification and connection with the special spirit of the month.”
“When we take down the walls of separation, fear and alienation, and when we meet each other, face to face, we suddenly discover that we are not so different,” he said. “We learn to respect the culture, values and customs of members of other religions. We discover that the distance between us is only that of an outstretched hand.”
“I was raised to respect Islam; I was raised on the virtue of partnership with Islam. All of us, the children of Abraham, the first believer in God, we who believe in fraternity, partnership, and reconciliation, must stand together, shoulder to shoulder, and fight with determination against hatred, against those who distort faith, against those who try to make us act against each other.”
And he called on all gathered to “take on ourselves a promise to ensure that we the leaders and the public looking up at us not miss the opportunity for dialogue.”
An attorney, Isaac Herzog was educated in America. He returned to Israel at the end of 1978, and he enlisted in the IDF, served as an officer in the Intelligence Corps, and left the army with the rank of major.
In 2003, he was elected to the 16th Knesset.
When he learned the Knesset had elected him President on June 2, 2021, he said he intended to be the president “of everyone,” a policy he is clearly holding to as evidenced by the April 13 iftar at his home.
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