Israeli chief rabbi visits Egypt

JERUSALEM, Dec. 16 (JTA) — Israel’s chief rabbis are conducting a foreign policy of their own. Sephardi Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron sent a letter to spiritual leaders in Iran to meet with rabbis and create a dialogue between religious leaders throughout the Middle East. In his letter, he called for an end to all hostile activity between Jews and Muslims, the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot reported. Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat brought the letter to Tehran when he attended an Islamic summit there last week, Yediot reported. According to other reports, the Iranian clerics responded positively to the letter, and an interfaith meeting involving rabbis and Iranian clerics may be held in a North African country in a matter of weeks. Meanwhile, Israel’s chief Ashkenazi rabbi has gone on a peace mission to Egypt. Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau held talks this week with Egyptian religious leaders during which they condemned terrorism and pledged to use their spiritual authority to promote moderation. The Grand Sheik of Al-Azhar, Mohamed Sayyed Tantawi, also said in published remarks that he asked Lau to advise Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “to fulfil international and bilateral agreements” so that “the whole region does not face a catastrophe.” Lau, who also met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, was the first Israeli chief rabbi to visit Cairo while still in office An Israeli spokesman said Lau told Mubarak and Tantawi that he hoped they visit Israel soon.

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