By Michael Oren
Religion News Service
(RNS) Following is a statement from Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren in response to a guest commentary by Richard Stearns, the U.S. president of the Christian humanitarian group World Vision, that appeared in Religion News Service on Wednesday (April 4):
"The claims made in a recent article by Richard Stearns ("A dark Easter for Palestinian Christians") are completely without foundation and are libelous to the State of Israel.
"Israel has provided more than 20,000 permits this year for Palestinian Christians to enter Jerusalem for the Good Friday and Easter holidays. Five-hundred similar permits have also been issued to the remaining Christians of Gaza, though the area is under the control of the terrorist organization Hamas.
"With the exception of the very few individuals who have raised security concerns, and not withstanding the measures we must take to protect our citizens, any Christian from the West Bank can reach Jerusalem on Good Friday and Easter. All allegations to the contrary are flagrantly untrue and represent a reckless attempt to defame the Jewish State.
"Israel, the only Middle Eastern country with a growing and thriving Christian population, remains committed to maintaining its superb relations with Christian communities worldwide. Though we face serious and continuing defense challenges, we uphold the principle of free access to the Holy Places to all religions. On this year, as in all previous years, we wish Christians throughout the world a joyous holiday."(Michael Oren is the Israeli ambassador to the United States.)