Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev speaks to an audience in the South West on religious pluralism in Israel
Israeli Ambassador and former spokesman for the Prime Minister of Israel, Mark Regev, gave a talk on Israel’s record in religious and racial pluralism, to an audience in the South West on November 16. He discussed Israel’s achievements in this area and also the challenges it faces going forward, and the effects of the rapid deterioration of the region on Israel and its relationships.
Mark is very of the fact that in a region of growing religious fanaticism, Israel is maintaining its free and democratic society. Throughout the Middle East persecution of Christians and other religious minorities has increased in recent years, with the rise of Daesh and others like them bringing to the surface latent hatreds. Israel is the exception; it is the only country in the region where the christian community is growing, rather than diminishing. It is a country where a Christian Arab judge can send a Jewish former Prime Minister to prison, as no-one is above the law there, and all professions are open to everyone. In fact Christians in Israel have a higher income and better education on average than any other group, including Jews. There is work to be done though, to improve participation in the workforce for Ultra-Orthodox Jewish males and Muslim females, two demographics which currently have very low representation. This will help raise the income of the poorest segments of Israeli society, namely Muslims and Ultra-Orthodox Jews.
The Ambassador described the hopes he and other Israelis had that the Arab people would gain their freedom from oppression during the Arab Spring, hopes which have all but vanished now as the nations around Israel implode. However, for Israel itself, the chaos holds the potential for reconciliation between bitter enemies, as Arab states reach out to the Jewish state for help dealing with the heightened levels of terrorism they now face. More Arab nations are talking to Israel now than ever in Israel’s history, and Mark believes this is simply out of pragmatism rather than any warmth they might feel toward Israel.
Still, Mark is hopeful that Israel’s more cordial relations with their neighbors will cause the Palestinians to follow in their fellow Arabs’ footsteps and become more open to peace. He also believes an Arab sponsored peace process has more chance of succeeding, since Palestinians should trust their brethren more than any Western nation. He is working on building peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but will not compromise his country’s security in the process.
Mark’s passion for Israel was evident during his talk, and his pride in his people and what they have achieved shone throughout. The news he brought of Israel’s improving relations with its neighbors is very encouraging and brings hope for the future.