The Senegalese delegation of Imams poses in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
"Today we learned of the worst act in history – the extermination of the Jews in Europe, an act that cannot be explained," said Imam El Hadji Omar Diene, the Secretary General of the National Association of Imams, who visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem this week with a delegation of six other Muslim religious leaders.
"We are all equal humans, every human, from every race, religion and gender, and no religious justification can be found to kill and exterminate those who are different. The tour let us deeply understand Israel and the Jews and we bless connections between nations," said Imam Diene after the visit.
The Yad Vashem visit was initiated by the Israel Foreign Ministry and the Israeli embassy in Dakar, the capital of Senegal.
The visit was unique in that it took place with the backdrop of escalated violence and tension in the region, especially in Jerusalem. However, the delegation of Imams, who were accompanied by journalists from Senegal, did not cancel their visit to Israel despite the escalated security situation.
Senegal is an important and influential African country with 90 percent of citizens Muslims.
The delegation also visited the Temple Mount and prayed at the al-Aqsa mosque as well as the Western Wall.
The group of Imams will also meet President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday in addition to visit to Haifa and Acre where they will meet rabbis.
The purpose of the visit was to deepen the familiarity of the Imams with the political and social aspects of Israeli society and promote interfaith and cultural dialogue in order to strengthen the ties between the two countries.
Israel hopes that this visit will help improve Israel's image in Senegal and also have a regional impact due to Senegal's growing influence over its neighboring countries – Mali, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Gambia.
Senegal is a partner of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the chairman of the UN Palestinian Rights Committee, the chairman of the Palestinian Rights Committee in the Human Rights Council, and a member of the Jerusalem Committee in the OIC.
Along with being an adamant advocate for Palestinian rights in the UN, Senegal also has friendly relations with Israel and is interested in strengthening its relationship with Israel in the realms of economic and cultural development.
The members of the Senegal Imam delegation were also interested in Israel's agricultural achievements and will learn about drip irrigation by the Netafim company in Kibbutz Magal and visit the Center for International Agricultural Development Cooperation (CINADCO).