by the Office of the President)

President Shimon Peres, paid a visit to the official residence of Archbishop Elias Chacour in Haifa earlier today. President Peres sang traditional Christmas songs with the local children’s choir from the Christian-Arabic school in I’billin.

President Peres delivered a festive greeting to Christians in Israel and across the world and said: “It is for me a privilege, as president of the State of Israel, to send profound wishes on behalf of all of Israel for a Happy Christmas to the whole Christian world and to express the hope that the Middle East may enter an era of peace and prosperity. The State of Israel is committed to protecting all the holy sites and the freedom of worship for everyone. In the Holy Land coexistence between Jews, Christians and Muslims will continue. From the city of Haifa, a model of peace and coexistence, I wish to send one clear message to the world – a message of peace and unity between all faiths, between all nations.”

President Peres added: “We are proud of the Christian community in Israel and are also proud that they feel fully at home, completely free to worship in their own way and to continue with their own traditions. I wish them and all Christians everywhere a Merry Christmas.”

President Peres was welcomed at the festivities by a children’s choir dressed in traditional Christmas outfits, leaders of the Christian community in northern Israel and Archbishop Chacour who said: “I thank the president of the State of Israel for coming to speak with the Christian community and share his blessings with us before Christmas and the New Year. The Christian community in Israel is small but proud of being Israeli citizens. The community will continue to work in partnership to build the state, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder with Jews and Muslims.

Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav said: “In Haifa we don’t have coexistence but one existence – in Haifa we celebrate the Festival of Festivals with complete equality between all religions and that is my wish for Christians across the Middle East this Christmas.”

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