Putin: 'I support the struggle of Israel'
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday met with a delegation of rabbis, led by Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar, and rabbis of the Rabbinical Center of Europe (RCE).
"I follow closely what's going on in Israel," said Putin during the long meeting, which was held in Moscow.
"I support the struggle of Israel as it attempts to protect its citizens. I also heard about the shocking murder of the three youths. It is an act that cannot be allowed, and I ask you to transmit my condolences to the families," added the Russian president, in referring to the abduction and murder of three teens in June by Hamas terrorists.
Rabbi Yosef began by saying "according to the Jewish tradition, your leadership is decided by the kingdom of G-d, King of the world, and therefore we bless you: Blessed is the One who gave of His glory to flesh and blood."
The rabbi discussed the ongoing rocket barrage on Israel by terrorists in Gaza, a relentless assault that led to IDF Operation Protective Edge being launched this Monday.
"This morning I left the state of Israel, the state of the Jewish people. Several hours before I took off for here, a rocket fell right near my home in the capital of the Jewish people - Jerusalem," remarked the rabbi.
Rabbi Yosef added "I don't need to note the panic that fell on my children and grandchildren, who were forced to enter shelters despite having done nothing wrong. It is difficult to describe the psychological damage caused to them. All for the 'sin' of their being born to the Jewish people."
"Despite the difficult situation, I left everything and came here, to ask that you, mister president, act to fight against terror conducted in the name of religion," requested Rabbi Yosef.
"There cannot be a situation where people manipulate religion to slaughter innocents. ...I ask you in the name of the people of Israel: please, bring an end to the violence," added the rabbi.
A true friend of Israel
Putin responded to Rabbi Yosef, asking him to tell Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that he is a true friend of Israel and of Netanyahu. Netanyahu called Putin on Thursday, and in their conversation, Putin called for an end to the conflict in Gaza.
Rabbi Lau, former Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi and current Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, spoke in the meeting about his remarkable personal story as a survivor of the Holocaust who later became the chief rabbi of Israel.
In this context, Putin consulted with the rabbis on means of dealing with anti-Semitism, Holocaust deniers and preventing historical revisionism.
Putin noted that the meeting marks 73 years since the massacre of thousands of Jews in Sevastopol in 1942, remarking on the bravery of the Jews who fought against the genocidal Nazi war machine.
"I remember visiting in the Yad Vashem Museum in Israel, which doesn't allow anyone to remain apathetic, and describes the horrifying atrocities that occurred in those days," said Putin.
The president added "here too in Moscow the Jewish community established a Jewish museum that gives a bitter picture of those awful years, and at the same time gives hope to the Jewish people and the Jewish community throughout Russia."
The warm meeting with the Russian president comes at a time when Israel is strengthening its relations with several major countries.
On Sunday, Japan signed an Industrial R&D Collaboration Agreement with Israel, making the Jewish state the first country Japan has signed such an agreement with. Israel likewise signed a landmark bilateral trade plan with China in May.