Houston Islamic, Jewish leaders pledge peace amidst Israeli-Palestinian conflict

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As hopes for a cease-fire continue among leaders of Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority following an 11-day conflict, religious leaders here at home are pledging their solidarity despite their differences.

More than two dozen Imams and Rabbis released an open letter Friday pointing to their peaceful co-existence and common ground on local issues, and the authors promise peace as fallout from the latest conflict in the Middle East continues to be felt.

"We have come to understand both Judaism and Islam are communities that seek to sustain a relationship with God and build a sacred community through teachings that stress similar values," the letter states. "We do not always see eye to eye, and from time to time, our needs and interests diverge. This misalignment is most acutely experienced concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

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You can read the complete letter here.

The letter lists six points of agreement between the two faiths, including a stand against any action that violates sacred locations in the region and the freedom to practice religion without hindrance. It also points to action that targets children and civilians.

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More than 250 people have been killed in the conflict, and damage is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars in the Gaza Strip. Gaza has been governed by Hamas since the group took over from the Palestinian Authority in 2007 after beating Fatah, which resulted in a tight blockade by Israel and Egypt.

The war was triggered by weeks of clashes in Jerusalem between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque, built on a hilltop compound revered by Jews and Muslims that has seen several outbreaks of Israeli-Palestinian violence over the years.

Egypt has invited Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority for separate talks that aim at consolidating the cease-fire that ended the war, according to the Associated Press. The talks would also focus on accelerating the reconstruction process in Gaza.

Back in Houston, both faiths said in the letter that while they pray that the ceasefire is respected by all parties, they don't believe it is a long-term solution.

"We must continue to find constructive ways to move the conversation forward and find a solution rooted in justice and peace for all," the letter states.

Reporting from the Associated Press is included in this story.
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