FALLSBURG N.Y (Jun. 23)
Israel’s Minister of Religious Affairs said here today that relations between the Government and the Christian religious community in Israel were “excellent” and relations with Moslem leaders “appear to be improving.” Dr. Zerach Warhaftig addressed the opening session of the 33rd annual convention of the Rabbinical Council of America, the Orthodox rabbinical association.
He said, “Many Christian leaders have come to me to say that never have Christian shrines felt so secure as under the Israeli regime, and some have even gone so far as to tell me that they never had it so good for centuries.”
Dr. Warhaftig said that religious, cultural and educational institutions of all faiths in Israel receive the same Government support as Jewish institutions. Places of worship are tax exempt and while Israel taxes the income from non-religious church-owned property, it compensates churches for import duties paid on building materials and other items brought in from abroad.
As an example, Dr. Warhaftig said his Ministry refunded hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Roman Catholic Church for tariffs paid on materials to build the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the largest Catholic Church in the Middle East.
Dr. Warhaftig said, “As far as Moslems in the administered areas are concerned, we have good relations with them in the Gaza Strip, and their religious authorities are paid by my Ministry. On the West Bank the Moslem authorities took their salaries from us soon after the Six-Day War but because of political considerations, they have stopped doing so.”
Dr. Warhaftig criticized the recent demonstrations by Hasidic Jews at the Israel Consulate General in New York protesting the performance of autopsies in Israel. He said the question of autopsies is a matter of concern not only in Israel but all over the world. But, he said, “If American Jews would like to be an influence in the matter, let them come to Israel to settle there and then, in a democratic manner, fight to have the problem solved.”