In his annual Christmas message, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced his support for persecuted Christians worldwide and said he's "proud" of his country's strong relationship with the faith community.
"To all of our Christian friends around the world, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year," Netanyahu said in a video message on Thursday.
The PM said he is "proud" of Israel's strong relationship with the Christian community and "the bond with you because we all know that this land of Israel is the land of our common heritage. It changed the story of humanity, it changed civilization."
However, he acknowledged that both Christians and Jews are continually "under attack" today, and that "the forces of intolerance, of barbarism that attack all religions attack Christians with particular vehemence."
"We stand with you," he told Christians, "and I'm proud of the fact that in Israel, this is the one place in the Middle East that the Christian community not only survives but thrives and it's no accident. It's because of our commitment to religious freedom; it's because of our embrace of our heritage; it's because of our embrace of our common future."
Netanyahu concluded his message with an invitation: "So please come to Israel. Come and visit me, I'm waiting for you. It will be a great experience for you. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year."
The PM spoke from the courtyard of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), one of the world's largest pro-Israel Christian ministries with branches in over 85 nations and supporters in 160 countries worldwide, according to JNS.
CBN reports that ICEJ Executive Director Dr. Jürgen Bühler responded by wishing the prime minister a "Happy Hanukkah" and giving him a huge silver Hanukkah dreidel - a four-sided top - as a gift.
"It was a great honor to host the Prime Minister at our embassy headquarters and to receive his good holiday wishes for Christmas," Bühler said.
"This indeed is a season when both communities can celebrate the triumph of light over darkness. And this timely display of solidarity shows once more that Israel is a country where religious freedoms are not only safeguarded but even encouraged," Bühler said.
Last week, Netanyahu praised US President-elect Donald Trump's controversial proposal to move the US Israeli embassy to Jerusalem: "Regarding the idea of opening the US Embassy to Jerusalem, I will respond to this in one word: Great," the Israeli PM said.