Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, sent a Christmas video message to Christians in Israel and the Middle East.

The Christmas holiday, he said, "is a special opportunity to spend time with loved ones" as well as a time to remember those less fortunate.  Netanyahu remembered in particular Christians across the Middle East who are suffering.

"They experience violence, persecution and fear," he said. "This has become the daily staple of Christian communities throughout the Middle East. Not so in here in Israel, the one exception."

The prime minister went on to note that religious freedom in Israel is a sacred principle and that Christians there "enjoy the full blessings of freedom and democracy, their equal rights enshrined in Israeli law."

Concluding his message, Netanyahu called on both Christians and Jews to remember the common heritage and values that unite them, especially "in the face of extremism and hatred."

"From Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people, the city of peace, I join Christians everywhere, and especially those in the Middle East, in a common prayer for a more peaceful and tolerant world," he said.