Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with members of Brazil’s Evangelical Christian community in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.
The prime minister is on a six-day tour in Brazil ahead of President-elect Jair Bolsonaro’s inauguration on Tuesday. Netanyahu will attend alongside U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The leaders will also meet on Syria and Iran following the ceremony.
Addressing the event for Christians on Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “We have no better friends in the world than the Evangelical community, and the Evangelical community has no better friend in the world than the State of Israel.”
He spoke of the deteriorating situation for Christians in the Middle East and Israel’s protection of its minority groups and religious freedom.
“If you are a Christian in the Middle East, there’s only one place where you are safe. There’s only one place where the Christian community is growing, thriving, prospering. That’s in the State of Israel. Because everywhere else, if you’re a Christian, you have to be very careful, or you have to leave. Not in Israel. You are our brothers and our sisters and we protect the rights of Christians as we protect the rights of all religions.” He added: “But this isn’t only a matter of justice, and it’s not only a matter of value. It’s a matter of the deepest sympathy in recognizing our common traditions, our common heritage.”
The prime minister then spoke of Jerusalem as Brazil prepares to relocate its embassy to the nation’s capital sometime in 2019.
“Israel and Jerusalem are one… from the time of King David, 300 years before King Hezekiah, [Jerusalem] was the capital of our people, has remained the capital of our people, and will remain the united, eternal capital of the Jewish people for all time. You don’t need this reminder because you know our history, and you know our common roots.”
He then spoke of shared values with Christian communities.
“Our histories are intertwined, our faith is intertwined, our values are intertwined. And so every time that we dig with a shovel in our land, we find ancient synagogues or ancient churches….” On Israel’s freedom, democracy and religious diversity, he stated: “When you come to Israel today, you see a country that welcomes you as brothers and sisters. You see a country that values religious freedom. You see a country that is pride of our past and carries our values to the future. You see a country where the ideal was that every person is born in the Image of God. This is the original idea of equality, in the ancient world, thousands of years ago.”
Netanyahu spoke of growing bilateral ties between Israel and Brazil, referring to Bolsonaro’s remarks over the weekend and support for the Jewish state. “We are brothers, and we are going to seize the future together… President Bolsonaro’s first name in Hebrew is Yair… it means, ‘He who brings light.’ And I think that we [now have] an opportunity together to bring a lot of light to the people of Brazil and the people of Israel. This is an alliance of brothers.”
He invited the community to Israel, specifically to Jerusalem, ending his speech stating “We shall welcome you with all the love and warmth that we reserve for family. You are part of our family and we are part of yours. I look forward to seeing you in Jerusalem, my brothers and my sisters.”
Amir Tsarfati, a Jewish Christian, is the founder and president of Behold Israel, a news site to correct the scarcity in trustworthy reportage on issues and events impacting Israel, and to resolve the uncertainty about who or what to believe.