AJC, at its Global Forum, presented the Unity Award to three religious leaders -- Rabbi Dov Haiyun, Amir Muhammad Sharif Ode, and Father Yousef Yakoub – for their extraordinary demonstration of brotherhood in response to the devastating forest fires in Haifa, Israel, in November 2016 that left 70,000 people homeless.

Moriah Congregation, Rabbi Haiyun’s synagogue, was badly damaged by the flames, and the estimated costs of repair were staggering for the small congregation. But the local Maronite Christian and Ahmadiyya Muslim communities, under the leadership of Father Yousef Yakoub and Amir Muhammad Sharif Ode respectively, stepped in to do the carpentry work and donate needed objects to get the synagogue up and running. In addition, both communities opened their facilities and even private homes to provide beds and food for those who had to be evacuated from their homes, whatever their religious affiliation.

In presenting the award to the three clergymen, Avital Leibovich, Director of AJC Jerusalem, said their response to the fire is "a story of friendship among three residents of one city, who share similar values, values that inspire the communities they lead—in times of crisis and in times of calm."

Accepting the Unity Award at the closing plenary of the Global Forum, the three religious leaders called each other brothers. Rabbi Haiyun said he looked forward to the day when such interfaith amity would be the norm in Israel rather than the exception. Imam Ode declared his personal motto to be “love for all, hatred for none." And Father Yakoub declared that he and his two colleagues “refused to allow dark fears to overcome the light and love that beats in the hearts of so many Israeli citizens.”

This year's AJC Global Forum, taking place June 4-6, in Washington, D.C., is the advocacy organization’s signature annual event, bringing together more than 2,500 participants from across the United States and 70 countries around the world. For well over a century, AJC has attached the highest importance to strengthening interreligious cooperation and is widely viewed in the global arena as a leader in the field.

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