Israel and The Occupied Territories
Section IV. U.S. Government Policy and Engagement
Following the continued tensions at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif and violent incidents between Israelis and Palestinians, the Ambassador and embassy officers spoke with government officials and Knesset leaders about the importance of maintaining the agreed-upon status quo at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif and not escalating tensions through provocative actions or statements. In meetings with government officials, visiting high-level U.S. government officials and embassy officers also stressed the importance of religious pluralism and respect for all streams of Judaism.
During a visit in February, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations met with the prime minister and other government officials, members of the Knesset, UN agencies, and civil society organizations working on religious pluralism issues. Discussions included the equal treatment of religious communities, combating acts of extremism, and strategies for calming tensions at religious sites. She visited religious sites and the Yad Vashem memorial for Holocaust victims in Jerusalem, as well as the Max Rayne Hand-in-Hand School, an institution dedicated to the education of Muslim and Jewish students together, which experienced an arson attack in 2014.
In April the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs visited Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for discussions with government officials, UN officials, and human rights experts, including on topics relating to religious minorities. In a May visit to Israel, Jerusalem, and the West Bank, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor met with government officials, Members of the Knesset, and NGOs to discuss a wide range of human rights issues, including issues related to religious minority groups, “price tag” attacks, and other instances of religiously motivated violence. Also in May a senior advisor in the office of the U.S. Special Representative for Religion and Global Affairs met with the Bahai religious minority and civil society groups working to promote religious pluralism.
Embassy-supported initiatives focused on interreligious dialogue and community development, and advocated a shared society for Arab and Jewish populations, including conferences at which embassy officers spoke out in support of the right of persons of all faiths to practice their religion peacefully, while also respecting the beliefs and customs of their neighbors.
Embassy officers participated in religious events organized by Jewish, Muslim, Druze, and Christian communities and used embassy social media channels to express U.S. support for tolerance and openness to other religions.
Embassy-hosted events, including an interfaith Ramadan iftar and an interfaith Thanksgiving dinner, promoted the reduction of tensions between religious communities and an increase in interreligious communication and partnership within society by bringing together representatives of many faith communities to advance shared goals and exchange knowledge and experience. Embassy programs supported mixed Jewish-Arab educational and community initiatives to reduce societal tensions and violence, including a project by the Citizens Accord Forum that brought together ultra-Orthodox and Arab citizens to create a shared civic agenda and implement activities related to social issues of common concern in their communities, in addition to a project supporting deliberative dialogue between religious Jewish and Arab women.
The embassy provided grants to organizations advocating religious tolerance among different ethnic groups, such as a three-year project by the NGO Sikkuy, which arranged a series of cultural tours to Arab majority towns in the Galilee and Wadi Ara during Ramadan for the purpose of introducing 2,000 Jews to Arab culture and religious practices during the Muslim holiday season.
The embassy also supported NGO Tsofen’s project to mitigate the interreligious and intercommunal tensions between Israel’s Arab and Jewish citizens through economic integration of the two communities and the creation of sustainable cycles of intergroup collaboration. The project’s activities promote the participation of Arab citizens in Israel’s high-technology industry, diversifying work environments, and facilitating intergroup collaboration.
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