Chief Rabbi Lau
Chief Rabbi LauFlash90

In the wake of a meeting between Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi David Lau and Elias Chacour, the Archbishop of Nazareth of the Greek Catholic Church, hundreds of police officers who had been scheduled for duty on Yom Kippur are to be relieved of duty for the day. The decision comes after Chacour agreed to instruct congregations under his aegis to restrict public pageants on Saturday.

That day marks Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Jews – but it also marks the Feast of the Cross, a celebration day in all Christian denominations, especially among Catholics. This is the first time in Israel's history that the two events have coincided.

Police had feared that Jewish worshippers would be upset at the marring of the holy day with loud music, bands, and parades that are customary among Christians on September 14. As a result, police ordered a major deployment of manpower in Haifa, Akko, Jerusalem, and smaller cities where the dual commemoration of the Jewish holy day and the Catholic feast could raise tensions.

Police have been fretting about the issue for months, and recently asked the Archbishop to reschedule the Catholic celebration – to which Chacour responded that if any shift should take place, it should be with Yom Kippur, since “it comes out on a different date each year anyway,” he told Channel Two last week.

The problem was resolved Thursday during the meeting between Chacour and Rabbi Lau, with the latter respectfully requesting that Catholic congregations celebrate their feast indoors, given the solemn aura of Yom Kippur.

Chacour said that he was very happy Rabbi Lau had discussed the issue with him, and promised to do whatever necessary to ensure that Yom Kippur was properly respected in mixed areas. The two promised to keep in touch and conduct further meetings to explore ways the Jewish and Catholic communities of Israel could work with one another.

“This was one of the most important meetings I have ever participated in,” Rabbi Lau said after the discussion. “We committed now and in the future to remain in contact and develop solutions to problems that will help alleviate confrontations and violence. I thank the Archbishop for his hospitality and wish the members of all religions a happy and prosperous year,” he added.

At the meeting's conclusion, police officials told Rabbi Lau that as a result of his efforts, hundreds of police officers who had been schedule to work on Yom Kippur would be sent home, since the arrangements promised by the Archbishop would preclude the need to deploy extra security.