Jerusalem prayers as Israeli PM visits Australia

Rabbi says when people pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they pray for the peace and harmony of all peoples

More than 60 prominent Australians, including religious figures and former MPs, signed a letter opposing the visit because of Israel's policies towards Palestinians.

By Mark Brolly

February 24 2017Prayers and meditation for the peace of Jerusalem were held at St Paul’s Cathedral on 23 February to coincide with the first official visit to Australia of a serving Prime Minister of Israel, Mr Benjamin Netanyahu.

Representatives from several religious traditions – including  Christians, Jews and Muslims – prayed and lit candles for Jerusalem, which is sacred to all three faiths.

Melbourne Assistant Bishop Philip Huggins organised the lunchtime prayer and meditation.

Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black of the Leo Baeck Centre in East Kew told the gathering that when people prayed for the peace of Jerusalem, they prayed for the peace and harmony of all the peoples of the world.

The General Manager of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Mr Ayman Islam, said every grain of the Holy City was sacred and had its place in the hearts and minds of Muslims. “It’s something that binds all of our Abrahamic faiths together,” he said.

A former Anglican Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Bishop George Browning, wrote in The Guardian Australia on 22 February: “Israel’s settlements are a weapon, the purpose of which is to preclude the possibility of a two-state solution by destroying the territorial basis of Palestinian statehood.” The Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network was among many Palestinian human rights and support organisations opposed to Mr Netanyahu’s trip.

More than 60 prominent Australians, including religious figures and former MPs, signed a letter opposing the visit because of Israel’s policies towards Palestinians.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy welcomed Mr Netanyahu and his wife Sara at Admiralty House, Sydney, the start of their visit on 22 February. In an opinion piece published in The Australian the same day, Mr Turnbull wrote that Australians and Israelis were bound together first and foremost by shared values of a mutual commitment to freedom, democracy and the rule of law. “And as a majority Christian nation, we share the rich cultural inheritance of the Bible, its stories and values a foundation and a context for our history, our literature, our imagination,” he wrote.

Mr Turnbull wrote that despite its achievements and the fact that Israel was “a miraculous nation”, “many view Israel exclusively through the lens of its conflict with the Palestinians”.

The Cathedral prayer and meditation was preceded by the weekly service of the Australian Friends of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre in Jerusalem and Nazareth, led by Fr James Minchin.