The Embassy of Israel said that a delegation of prominent Christian and communal leaders in South Africa had visited Israel. File picture: Reuters/Denis Balibouse

Johannesburg - The Embassy of Israel, in partnership with South African Friends of Israel and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Thursday that a delegation of prominent Christian and communal leaders in South Africa had visited Israel.

"The tour consisted of five days of intense biblical tours, cultural experiences, holy sites and meetings with Akiva Tor, Head of Bureau for World Jewish Affairs and World Religions at the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs," the embassy said in a statement.

According to the statement, the delegation consisted of some of South Africa's leading Christian figures, including His Majesty King Mthimkhulu III, Bishop Phakama Shembe, Bishop Mutula, Prince Skekhune, Barry Isaacs, Pastor Ratau, Kgosi Pilane and Inkosi Mahlangu.

The embassy described Israel as a multi-faceted society with ancient roots for many ethnic, religious, cultural and social backgrounds.

"Christians regard Israel as their biblical Holy Land and is one of the only Middle Eastern countries where the Christian population is not diminishing."

The embassy said the delegation experienced Christian life in Israel, as well as the vast diversity and multicultural society that the country had to offer.

Ambassador Lior Keinan said: "Israel and South Africa share religious roots, and this delegation represents the strength of the people-to-people relationship between our two countries."

The embassy said the tour was not only biblical, as it included a number of visits to Israeli organisations which were involved in assisting Africa, mainly in the agricultural and health sectors.

"The delegation visited Organi Green - an agriculture farm that provides solutions for countries in Africa, as well as Save a Child's Heart Foundation, which recently operated on its 5 000th child in developing countries, and its 2 000th Palestinian child."

An average of 21 000 South Africans visit Israel throughout the year, with a large number being South African Christian groups going to experience their religious roots in Israel.

African News Agency (ANA)