In an exclusive interview with Arutz Sheva today (Wednesday), Rabbi Shlomo Riskin responded to the haredi attack on his interfaith prayer session tomorrow in Jerusalem, which will include both Jewish and Christian Zionists. Rabbi Riskin is the Chief Rabbi of the town of Efrat, south of Jerusalem, and one of the most important rabbis in the "Anglo" religious-Zionist community.
Rabbi Riskin said he struggled to understand why the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi Shlomo Amar, wrote such a strong letter - in which he said the notion of such an event made him "feel sick" - based only on reports in the haredi community and without reaching out to him for a discussion. "I was shocked to arrive home and find the letter without anyone even talking to me. It's a great shame," he said.
Rabbi Riskin explained that the prayer in question would not be shacharit (the mandatory morning prayer), as the haredi reports described. "We are talking about a thanksgiving prayer to G-d that would include Christians who worship His actions towards the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. As it is written in the Psalms, 'Praise the Lord, all peoples; exalt Him, all the nations. For His kindness has overwhelmed us, and the truth of the Lord is eternal, Halleluy-ah.'"
"This means that some of the praises for G-d come from Gentiles who are thankful that He provided miracles for us and brought the Jewish people to the Land of Israel," Rabbi Riskin emphasized.
Rabbi Riskin further elaborated that those Christians with whom he is engaged are "not Christians who are tainted with proselytizing but Christians who are truly righteous among the nations and who believe completely that G-d gave the Land of Israel to the Children of Israel. These are the Christians who will come tomorrow and praise G-d for the great miracle he provided for the Jewish people.
"We are not discussing a regular prayer but rather a prayer of praise that will be broadcast to millions of people around the world."
The prayer will also be conducted in such a way that neither Jewish nor Christian participants will feel uncomfortable, he added.
"Naturally, it will be without Christian symbols or complete divisions between men and women. It will only be a prayer of praise for the gift that the Jewish people received on Independence Day.
"In the time of the Temple, King Solomon asked G-d to listen to the Gentiles who came with their own requests. This is a great opportunity to praise the Land of Israel which He gave to the Jews. In the words of the prophet Ezekiel, 'I will be exalted and I will be sanctified, and I will make Myself known before the eyes of many nations; then they will know that I am the Lord.'
"What could possibly be more appropriate?
"In the end, it is only praising G-d. I told the haredi news outlets that I am on my way to an Independence Day prayer in which I will thank and praise G-d. Tomorrow Gentiles will do the same as they praise G-d, and you haredim are not doing this! Do you think that you are more religious?"