Looking forward to stronger interfaith ties

The Israeli government's plan for the Room of the Last Supper sets a new paradigm for inter-religious harmony

Despite protests from fundamentalist religious groups, this decision could have a positive impact on interfaith relations in Israel.

Room of the Last Supper. Photo: Asaf Yekuel, WikipediaRoom of the Last Supper. Photo: Asaf Yekuel, Wikipedia

The Israeli government is currently planning to provide greater access and potentially possession of the Room of the Last Supper, which is located above King David's Tomb, to the Catholic Church. These plans and Pope Francis' upcoming visit to Israel have sparked protests and incitement from several religious fundamentalist groups and ultra-Orthodox leaders.

In response to the controversy, Hiddush- Freedom of Religion for Israel CEO Rabbi Uri Regev said that, "the site that is believed to house King David's Tomb in the Jewish tradition is unique since it bears deep significance to the three monotheistic religions. In the spirit of hope for inter-religious harmony and reconciliation, every effort must be made to allow the different religions to enjoy access and worship according to their own faith, with full respect for others, and share these sites."

Hiddush's response is based in part on the fact that the site can easily be partitioned between the different levels. The Room of the Last Supper is located above the site where King David is claimed to have been buried,

Giving the Room of the Last Supper to the Catholic Church is a forward-looking gesture towards the Christian community.

but the room itself bears no religious importance to the Jewish faith. Rabbi Regev noted that, "it is essential to ensure that there are separate entrances to the different chambers in order to avoid friction or hurt feelings between the sites' visitors."

Rabbi Regev emphasized that, "the hostile statements made by extreme religious voices are bigoted, hate-mongering and nonsensical. Conversely, giving the Room of the Last Supper to the Catholic Church is a forward-looking gesture towards the Christian community. It expresses a desirable, liberal, and tolerant outlook and the needed ability to move beyond past disputes and persecutions that the Jewish People experienced in specific Christian and Muslim communities throughout generations.

This potential agreement could be seen as a means to create stronger channels of dialogue, which would include progress on both sides of the relationship.

Rabbi Regev noted that, "we should expect that the Vatican will similarly make gracious gestures towards the Jewish community, such as returning the Jewish cultural and religious treasures looted from Jewish communities throughout history that are now stored in the Vatican."

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