Ambassador of Israel Mark Regev says that dialogue is essential to establishing common ground in the Middle East
I was delighted and honoured to host Muslim and Jewish community leaders at my Residence for a Ramadan Iftar dinner. as dates were served and the fast was broken, our conversation turned to the millennia of interwoven history of Jews and Arabs in the Middle East. This common heritage was demonstrated to us by a special presentation of a Cambridge University Library collection of fragments from the Cairo Genizah: an archive comprising manuscripts and letters preserved from 870CE to the nineteenth century and held in the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo.
As our conversation moved from the past to the contemporary, we spoke of the challenges we face. From tackling extremism and hate, to fighting antisemitism and Islamophobia, to preserving our heritage and educating future generations, it was apparent to us all that a better future is possible when we embrace coexistence.
Together, we shared our profound concern for the current situation in the Middle East. The region, home to our faiths and our holiest sites, is plagued by autocracy, violence and terrorism. That is why we spoke openly and honestly about how to attain the peace we all crave, in the knowledge that it is only through dialogue that we can establish common ground. Indeed, the State of Israel is speaking with more Arab governments today than at any time in its 70-year history, who see the Jewish state as an ally in the fight against the barbarity of the extremists.
Reflecting on our evening, I recall the wise words of the late King Hussein of Jordan, the second Arab leader to forge a peace treaty with Israel: “We belong to the camp of peace. We believe in peace. We believe that our one God wishes us to live in peace and wishes peace upon us, for these are His teachings to all the followers of the three great monotheistic religions, the children of Abraham.”
In a part of the world in which faith is all too often twisted to support the forces of division and hatred, those three clear and unambiguous sentences are all the more relevant, as they speak to religion’s potential to help create harmony.
One dinner held in the dining room of a home in London thousands of miles away from the turbulent Middle East will not solve all the region’s problems, but in just a few hours we did succeed in building stronger bonds of friendship between communities, which may help move us in the right direction. That is why I will be hosting another Iftar dinner next year.