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Israeli official: Israel started as secular but changed

KIEV, Ukraine (JTA) — Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin told Ukrainian lawmakers that Israel “began as a secular project, but has changed” to become more religious.

Speaking Wednesday at a special session of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, Elkin said: “Israel began as a secular project encompassing a religious elite but things have changed: The role of religion is much more greater now. There has been a shift.” 

This change “can create serious conflicts but also dialogue of religions. We can achieve much more when we use new models of religious interaction,” added Elkin, who is a member of the Likud Party.

Elkin spoke as guest of the Kyiv Interfaith Forum, an annual conference which brings together spiritual leaders from five faiths as a means to promote tolerance.

The forum’s founder, Ukrainian-Jewish lawmaker Oleksandr Feldman, invited the participants to bring their children to next year’s gathering.

One participant, a Muslim from the United Kingdom, was assaulted Wednesday by a protestor outside the hotel hosting the conference. The attacker, part of a group of a few dozen Orthodox Christian fundamentalists, shoved the Muslim man and knocked off his turban.

The protestors were carrying a sign, in English with a Hebrew-like font, warning of the “evil council” of Jews, Muslims and Christians.

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