Text size

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has sent an invitation to the World Jewish Congress for an interfaith dialogue with Muslim and Christian leaders, Haaretz has learned.

While the date and location of the meeting has not been announced, sources have told Haaretz that King Abdullah seeks to hold the meet in Saudi Arabia, no small feat as the country is ruled by Islamic Sharia law and currently does not allow the entry of holders of Israeli passports or those whose passports bear entry visas from Israel. The country also bans all non-Muslim prayer in public.

WJC President Ronald Lauder issued a statement Monday saying that "despite all the obstacles that may still be in the way, King Abdullah's initiative is a laudable step forward. We hope that other religious leaders and political leaders throughout the world will be encouraged to join."

WJC Governing Board Chair Matthew Brofmann also praised the initiative and expressed his hope that it will "spell real progress in fostering better understanding with the Muslim world," and added that the WJC "is ready to participate in any interfaith talks that are meant towards mutual respect."

Abdullah first announced his plans to hold the meet during a public address in Riyadh in March, where he said "I plan, god willing, to hold summits - not just one - so as to hear the opinion of my Muslim brothers all over the world. We will start to meet with our brothers in every faith I have mentioned - the bible and the New Testament."

King Abdullah said the kingdom's top clerics had given him the green light to pursue the idea.

In response to the Saudi initiative, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger at the time said, "our hands are extended to any peace initiative, or to any dialogue whose goal is to bring an end to terror and violence. I have said many times that the true way to reach the long-awaited peace is through interfaith dialogue."