U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain traveled to Israel and the West Bank on April 13-18 to meet with government and civil society leaders as well as representatives of faith communities during the convergence of Ramadan, Passover, and Easter.
Ambassador Hussain and Special Representative for Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr met with senior officials in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior regarding the right to freedom of religion or belief for all. They met with Director General of the Islamic Waqf in Jerusalem Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib to discuss developments during Ramadan and reiterated to all the U.S. commitment to preserving the historic status quo in Jerusalem.
Ambassador Hussain and Special Representative Amr attended Friday prayers at Al Aqsa Mosque, the Holy Fire Ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre before Orthodox Easter and visited the Western Wall and met with Rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinowitz. Ambassador Hussein reiterated U.S. support for implementation of the 2016 agreement to expand the egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall.
Ambassador Hussain further met with civil society leaders of all three Abrahamic faiths to hear their perspectives on the current climate in Jerusalem, Israel, and the West Bank for religious freedom and tolerance as well as each group’s unique challenges to practice freely.
He then traveled to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity and the Mosque of Omar. Ambassador Hussain discussed the vital educational and social role of the Bethlehem Bible College in the Bethlehem community with college President Reverend Dr. Jack Sara.
Finally, Ambassador Hussain spoke with the Armenian, Greek, and Latin Patriarchs of Jerusalem about the situation of Christians in the region and the vital importance of preserving and protecting Jerusalem’s religious diversity.
To keep up with Ambassador Hussain’s travel, follow @IRF_Ambassador and @StateIRF on Twitter and DOSIRF on Facebook. For more information, please contact IRFpress@state.gov.