The king of Saudi Arabia hosted an Israeli rabbi last week, apparently for the first time in modern history — a further sign of warming relations between the kingdom and the Jewish state.
“My visit does not create a new reality, but reflects a new reality, and it is testimony to a new openness in Saudi Arabia,” Rabbi David Rosen said.
Rosen, who was born in England, met King Salman in his royal palace where he was introduced not as a representative of any political stream, but as a religious representative of the country.
“I was presented to the king as representative of Jewish people and of Judaism, not in any particular national identity,” Rosen told The Times of Israel.
The Jerusalem-based rabbi spent a few days attending a meeting of the King Abdullah International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, where he is on the board of directors.
“The experience was really something special,” Rosen said. “And it was not just the meeting with the king. The most exciting thing was meeting young people and their sense of the transformation their country is undergoing.”
Rosen called his invitation revolutionary saying that two years ago the Saudi authorities “would not have contemplated inviting us, and primarily me as a rabbi.”
Evangelical American-Israeli author and founder of The Joshua Fund, Joel Rosenberg, led a delegation of American Evangelicals to Jeddah in September where he was received by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“I think it’s enormously significant that the Saudis are continuing to pursue interfaith delegations and dialogue,” he said of Rosen’s visit. “The meeting between the rabbi and the king is of particular significance, because as far as I know it’s the first time the king has met with one of these interfaith delegations.”
Messianic Jewish Joel C. Rosenberg is greeted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia at the Royal Palace last year. (courtesy Saudi Embassy in Washington)