Israel remains the only bright spot in the Middle East when it comes to democracy and religious freedom. In virtually every other country, anyone who isn’t Muslim faces oppression and persecution. Wishing someone a “Merry Christmas” publicly in a country like, say, Iraq? Good luck with that! But in Israel, it’s not only acceptable to practice different religions, the prime minister himself delivers a moving Christmas message.
So far, Barack Obama has only been willing to issue a generic “Happy Holidays” message. Benjamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, posted an incredible message for Christians around the world getting ready to celebrate Christmas, while also honoring the rich Christian history in Israel.
“[I]t moves us deeply to have this bond with you because we all know that this land of Israel is the land of our common heritage. It changed the story of humanity, it changed civilization. What a magnificent heritage it is. Yet, we also know that it is under attack these days, that the forces of intolerance, of barbarism that attack all religions attack Christians with particular vehemence. We stand with you and I’m proud of the fact that in Israel, this is the one place in the Middle East that the Christian community not only survives but thrives and it’s no accident. It’s because of our commitment to religious freedom; it’s because of our embrace of our heritage; it’s because of our embrace of our common future.”
“So please come to Israel. Come and visit me, I’m waiting for you. It will be a great experience for you,” he concluded. “Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!”
This is an incredible way to celebrate Christmas, and it’s coming from the prime minister of a Jewish country — not a Christian one. But it’s also a country where anyone, whether they are Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, can practice their religion openly. And it’s a country where they welcome people of all different faiths to honor their heritage and history there.
Barack Obama could take a few lessons from Bibi here.