May 14 – 2009

Caspari Center Media Review – May 14, 2009

During the week covered by this review, we received 31 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, attitudes to Jesus and Christianity, anti-missionary activities, Christians in Israel, Jewish-Christian relations, and the Pope and the Vatican. Of these:

1 dealt with Messianic Jews
3 dealt with attitudes to Jesus and Christianity
4 dealt with anti-missionary activities
8 dealt with Christians in Israel
2 dealt with Jewish-Christian relations
13 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican

This week’s Review continued to focus on the approaching papal visit to Israel. It also featured a lengthy article on Messianic Jews, entitled “Jesus’s Zionists.”
Messianic Jews
Jerusalem Post, May 1, 2009
Matthew Wagner contributed a feature article to the Jerusalem Post (May 1) in which he examined Messianic Jews as “Jesus’ Zionists”: “[U]nlike most Jewish religious Zionists – who see the establishment of the state as a precursor to the yet-to-be-revealed messiah – Bar-David has a radically different eschatology. That’s because Bar-David is a Messianic Jew  … Bar-David is one of about 10,000 Messianic Jews living here who believe that Jesus is the messiah and the son of God, and that accepting him as such is a precondition for spiritual redemption. They call themselves Jewish because most were born to a Jewish mother or father … the belief that Jesus is the messiah who already revealed himself once and will be making a second coming normally places someone squarely outside the Jewish fold. In fact, it is difficult to imagine anything less Jewish … But Bar-David and other members of the Messianic community see themselves not only as Jews, but also as ardent Zionists and patriotic Israelis. They reject Christian replacement theology that sees, for instance, the Catholic Church, as the new chosen people. For the Messianic community, the Jewish people are still God’s chosen people, even if they rejected Jesus. The establishment of Israel is a tangible manifestation of the prophecies of the Bible. The ingathering of the exiles, the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, is part of God’s master plan for the final redemption. Fighting in the IDF against Israel’s enemies is tantamount to taking part in the fulfillment of biblical prophecies. To be on Israel’s side means to be on God’s side. This ‘faith-based’ Zionism is what motivated about 2,000 Messianic Jews and Evangelical Christians from all over Europe including Finland, Norway, Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy and Cyprus to meet in Geneva last week and demonstrate against Durban II … But Messianic Jews’ variety of religious Zionism is not always appreciated. In probably the most violent attack against a Messianic Jew that took place, Ami Ortiz, 15, a dual American-Israeli citizen and the son of a Messianic Jewish pastor, was seriously wounded when a bomb exploded in his home in Ariel on Purim (March 20) last year … This is not an isolated incident. The US State Department’s Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, released in September 2008, pointed to a marked rise in violence against Messianic Jews … An interesting phenomenon that arises again and again in conversations with Messianic Jews is their strong commitment to military service as part of their loyalty to the state … Like Orthodox religious Zionists who see their military service as a mitzvah, Messianic Jews also see it in religious terms. In fact, several Messianic Jews said they respected religious Zionists for their selfless service to the state, and felt they had many things in common with them – except, of course, for the belief in Jesus … Messianic Jews see no contradiction between Jesus’ pacifist teachings, such as the Sermon on the Mount, in which the faithful are taught to turn the other cheek to their enemies, and Messianic Jews serve in the IDF. Michael, who is an officer in the Givati Brigade, believes that Jesus’ teachings make military service more of a challenge. ‘As believers, we are obligated to love and respect our enemies. But we are also citizens of Israel, which obligates us to serve in the IDF. Every believer has to ask if he is doing what is right and good. The most difficult test is when we are involved in policing the Palestinian population at checkpoints or during patrols inside Palestinian villages. I personally see it as an opportunity to behave in a compassionate, ethical way, and serve as a witness for Jesus’ teachings. There are about 200 or 300 of us spread out throughout the IDF having a positive impact, serving as examples. We believe this state of affairs will not last forever, however. Eventually, there will be a time of peace ushered in by the prince of peace. In that day, everyone will recognize that Jesus is the messiah.’”

Attitudes towards Jesus and Christianity
TimeOut, April 30; Makor Rishon, May 1 (pp. 11, 122), 2009

In discussing “The memory of the Holocaust as a threat to Israel” in an article printed in Makor Rishon (May 1, p. 11), Shmuel Trigano answered the question why Europe appears incapable of recognizing the Jew as other than the (anonymous) ‘victim,’ Trigano argued that “The answer to this question is to be found in the Christian heritage. The doctrine of Christ’s two bodies – as taught by Paul – disassociated his earthly, fleshly body from his mystical body, which also symbolizes his sufferings. In his earthly body, Yeshua was executed in suffering and died. But he remained alive in his mystical, divine body, in which he arose from the dead, leaving behind an empty tomb. This theoretical midrash on Yeshua’s fate as a man, as Adam, and … as a Jew, is a striking example of how the church interprets the issue of ‘the Jewish people.’ The church sees Yeshua as split into the mystical body of the ‘true Israel’ – universalistic Christianity (which, of course, is the basic meaning of ‘catholic’) – and his earthly body, the residue of sublimating acts, which is Jewish Israel, belonging to the flesh of an exiled tribal, ethnic, and separatist people … Christ’s suffering embodies sin in order to atone for it. Christianity must therefore identify with the cross, with the sacrifices, in order to gain salvation. The body of the Jews is worthy of worship only in his [Yeshua’s] redeeming sufferings, because according to Christianity, God was incarnated in Jewish flesh. This pattern of thought gave birth to hatred of Jews in all sorts of forms, because it has direct political implications … This is the model which recurs in the European memory of the Holocaust. The ‘mystical’ Jewish people – the victim of the Holocaust – is lauded, while the ‘physical’ Jewish people – the Israel of today – is repeatedly represented in the media as so inferior as to virtually eliminate its existence.”
The same paper (May 1, p. 122), asked and answered a parallel question, from the Jewish perspective: “What’s the connection between sovereignty, Zionism, the pope, five monkeys, and a banana?” The reply involved a similar evaluation of Christianity: “According to Christianity, the Jews are Israel in the flesh, whereas Christians are Israel of the spirit. In order to explain continued Jewish existence during the period of Christian predominance, Augustine – one of the heads of the church – developed the doctrine which teaches that Jewish exile and Diaspora constitute a perpetual warning sign to Christians not to deny Yeshu. Under this system, the Jews are permitted to live in Christian countries, but their status must be lower than that of their Christian counterparts. In the future, this ecclesiastical model determines, the Jews will convert and accept Yeshu’s authority when he returns. Any revival of Israel in her own land which doesn’t follow this Catholic Christian timetable represents a serious contradiction for Christian theology. An official visit of the head of the Catholic Church to the sovereign State of the Jews possesses huge significance, of which most Israelis are completely ignorant. Sometimes a banana is not simply a banana.”
Under the title “Jesus,” TimeOut (April 30) printed a piece on Benny Shvili’s view of Yeshua’s miracle of walking on water, due to be delivered in a collection of meetings between world-renowned scholars. Shvili, “a poet and writer who deals with Judaism, Hasidism, and Buddhist and Sufi teachings, will endeavor to explain – with the help of the New Testament and its crucified hero – the extremely controversial pastoral notion of the Mediterranean. ‘Yeshua walks on the Mediterranean’ is the name of Shvili’s class, which will include, in addition to the canonical text, modern literary works, several films, and lots of inspiration. With respect to official liquids, the symbolic graph in the New Testament points to a clear rise in sedimentation. Yeshua’s ministry begins at the Jordan, where he’s baptized. He then continues to the Sea of Galilee to perform his walking on the water. Finally, his gospel is disseminated by his followers, via the Mediterranean, to the rest of the world. ‘He walks [present tense] on the Mediterranean,’ says Shvili, ‘In other words, he continues to walk on the Mediterranean through pilgrims, the pilgrimages, and the attitude towards the water. This is significant in early Christianity, which was created in the Mediterranean. Beyond that, however, this beautiful foundational passage in the New Testament is important from a literary, mystical, and visual perspective. What is the significance of a person walking on the water on the Sea of Galilee? In contrast, or in relation to the land, water is perpetually in motion, flowing. Land is static, territorial. Water takes the new knowledge, in the Jewish world of two thousand years ago, to other places – Rome, Athens. Water changes. Symbolically, it represents the staticism of Judaism, which remains conservative and doesn’t change. In the face of Yeshua’s reforming concept which teaches, Come, let’s get out of this frozen state, water enables knowledge of a new world.’” Asked what walking on water means, Shvili replied: “‘…after his baptism in the Jordan, Yeshua was light, he didn’t have any weight – he is spirit and walks on the water. His first four disciples were also fishermen from the Sea of Galilee. Do the fish represent our subconscious? ‘You are fishers of men, not of fish,’ Yeshua tells them, and he doesn’t mean it in the missionary sense but that they will enlighten and arouse people from their sleepiness.’ ‘Yeshua is light as spirit but also a savior and hero?’ ‘Water also possesses a heroic significance. We see this is Greek culture, in one of the foundational texts – Odysseus’ journey to Attica. In The Old Man and the Sea – which is all New Testament – about a man who goes fishing and encounters sharks, Hemingway, who grew up in a religious home, creates Yeshua as walking on the water. The stigmata, the sharks, and the old man who goes home with a sign of a fish as an image of Yeshua carrying the cross – they’re all Christian symbols’ … But why the New Testament?’ ‘The New Testament takes place in Israel, its hero is a wise Jew who spoke Aramaic or Hebrew, and according to the Apostles, the Gospel was also meant for the Jews. Why shouldn’t we study this creative work with all its significance? Even those parts which stray from Judaism? The text is problematic and provocative, true, but it also creates a lot of empathy for itself. Yeshua goes around in the same places we do now, and he certainly belongs to our physical and cultural landscape. That’s not to say that we believe that Yeshua is the Messiah – despite the fact that he’s an exceptionally appealing figure. He’s a nonconformist; he’s the water as a symbol of flowing, variability, elusiveness. He reminds us not to become frozen, to be supple, translucent, and pellucid like the water. Water is the spirit.’”
Anti-missionary Activities
Jerusalem Post, April 28; Kol HaIr – Bnei Brak, April 28; HaModia, May 4; Yom L’Yom, April 30, 2009

All these reports cover the story of Yad L’Achim’s appeal to the pope to disclose the Jewish identity of children hidden by Christian families during the Holocaust (see previous Reviews). According to Matthew Wagner’s report in the Jerusalem Post (April 28), “Father David Neuhaus, patriarchal vicar for the Hebrew Speaking Catholics in Israel, said that it was impossible for the Catholic Church to adopt an overall principle for dealing with Jews who had been raised as Catholics. ‘Tremendous complexities arise, and each case must be treated individually,’ said Neuhaus. ‘Human lives are involved in these tremendously complex, emotionally charged cases,’ he explained. ‘Besides the theological issues of what faith these people belong to, there are also very human issues of relationships. Catholic families who raise a Jewish orphan feel that he or she is their very own. To whom should this orphan be returned? To a distant relative that the survivor does not even know? To the Jewish people? … even after these Jews are told of their origins, they react in many different ways. A simple declaration on the part of the pope is not going to solve these problems’ … Rabbi David Rosen, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Department for Interreligious Affairs, who is helping to coordinate the pope’s visit to Israel, said that Holocaust survivors with Jewish roots had the right to know about it, but doubted that the pope was the right person to petition. ‘It is more appropriate to meet with the local archdioceses and attempt to track [them] down on a local level,’ said Rosen. ‘It is a bit sensationalists to turn to the Pope.’”
According to a note in HaModia (May 4), Yad L’Achim have also appealed to President Shimon Peres and PM Netanyahu to raise this matter with the pope during his visit.
Christians in Israel
Chadashot Haifa, April 22; Yediot Ahronot, May 3; Ma’ariv, May 1; Calcalist, April 28; Haaretz, April 28 (Hebrew and English editions); HaModia, May 1, 3, 2009

Ma’ariv (May 1) printed an account of the stealing of valuable paintings from a Yaffo church (see previous Reviews).
HaModia (May 1) reported that Israel had reopened discussions this week with the Vatican regarding church-owned property in Israel and the payment of property tax. While the Vatican representative expressed willingness to pay the taxes being demanded by Israel, this was accompanied by a request that Israel demonstrate flexibility with respect to leaving properties in church hands. The paper was particularly anxious over the fact that this means that the Israeli government may be prepared to return King David’s tomb on Mount Zion to the Vatican. Progress was reported in the financial discussions, with a second meeting of deputy foreign ministers scheduled to take place in December. During Olmert’s premiership, Israel had offered the Vatican an alternative site, an offer which the Vatican had declined. According to a similar report in Yediot Ahronot (May 3), the Israeli government hopes that Benedict XVI will issue a call for pilgrims to visit Israel either during or close to his own pilgrimage next week. “The issue was raised at a meeting at the end of the week between the Vatican deputy foreign minister, Pietro Parolin, who arrived in the country at the head of a delegation of 10 top-ranking Vatican officials to finalize the details of the papal visit and advance the financial negotiations between the two countries.” According to this piece, Israel has again refused to hand over the “room of the Last Supper” on Mount Zion.
HaModia (May 3) also noted that the pope is “bringing with him funds for residential building projects for Arab Christian families in Jerusalem. Sources close to him say that he is worried by the decrease in the numbers of Christians in Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular and during his visit will listen to suggestions for the enlargement of the Christian community in the capital. The pope intends to work towards the strengthening and aiding of the Arab Christian communities which are diminishing in Israel and Jerusalem. The plans include: residential building projects for young Christian families and expansion of the education system.” Current statistics indicate that the Arab Christian community in Jerusalem numbers 14,000 (including 2,600 religious officials who are not Israeli citizens), constituting 2% of Jerusalem’s population – in contrast to around 20% in 1946. “Our political reporter emphasizes that the plans of the papal visit point to a large Christian effort to work on behalf of the local Arab Christian communities. Vatican planners are not hiding the fact that they hope that the pope’s visit will inject some hope into the diminishing Arab Christian communities in Israel, together with other steps, including the building of residential projects … A survey conducted by Dr. Amnon Ramon from the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies suggests that church leaders are greatly concerned about the potential disappearance of the local Arab Christian communities.” The survey indicates, for example, that the majority of the youth have left the country and that most of the non-Arab Christian populace has left Jerusalem.
According to a piece in Chadashot Haifa (April 22), a delegation of Druze leaders from the north of the country recently met with Archbishop Elias Chacour, head of the Catholic community, “in order to convey Druze greetings to the Christian residents of Haifa in honor of Easter.” In response, Mufaq Khoury stated that “the tradition of Druze blessings on Christian holidays is generations old, while every year Christian leaders participated in the celebrations of the prophet Shueib Shachal on April 25 at the tomb of Jethro in Hittin, near Tiberias.”
The Finance Ministry is seeking to overthrow a government bill from 2008 permitting the immigration of further Falashmura, due to the high costs – including travel, absorption, education, health benefits, etc. – involved. The Falashmura are a group of Jews who converted to Christianity around 200 years ago. They regard themselves as Jews and are not accepted by the Christian community in Ethiopia (Calcalist, April 28).
According to Haaretz (April 28, Hebrew and English editions), a representative of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem recently accompanied ten southern Sudanese refugees to “an African country, from where they would continue toward Sudan … The Foreign Ministry and representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees were aware of the departure and its circumstances. The ministry has been involved in ICEJ activities and the refugees were repatriated out of their own free will, the ministry added. However, southern Sudanese community leaders in Israel says the ICEJ’s motives are improper, and that the repatriated Sudanese may face the death penalty under Sudanese law if the authorities discover they were in Israel … Haaretz has learned that the International Christian Embassy, which calls itself a Christian Zionist organization, is trying to convince many of the refugees to return to Sudan, despite the substantial danger they face there … An ICEJ representative who had accompanied the group of 10 said the project was undertaken only after they verified that every person wanted to return. She added that she received nearly daily requests from Sudanese refugees in Israel who wanted to return home, and that almost 2 million refugees have returned to southern Sudan since a cease-fire was signed three years ago, making that area autonomous.”
Jewish-Christian Relations
Makor Rishon, May 1; Jerusalem Post, May 1, 2009

In its continuing display of interest in Christian-related news, Makor Rishon (May 1) published a lengthy article surveying the history of the Jewish community in Rome, asking how “Jews lived and live in the very heart of the world center of Christianity.” The author noted how the fortunes of the early Jewish community declined when Christianity become the official religion of the Empire, “their status depending on the popes, who did not always seek their well-being, to put it diplomatically.” A subheading entitled “Under the shadow of the Vatican” reviewed the history of Jewish-Christian relations in the city: “The relations between the Christian Holy See and the local Jewish communities may be said to be ‘complex,’ with ups and downs – with particularly cruel and severe downs … While persecutions raged against the Jews throughout Christian Europe in the Middle Ages, whole communities being expelled from countries, cities, and villages … the Jews of Rome were in fact protected from the sword of expulsion, due, among other reasons, to the church’s belief that their existence and wandering fate constitute proof of the truth of Christianity. This was the way Christians interpreted the verse ‘Do not slay them, lest my people forget’ (Ps. 59:11).”
The Jerusalem Post (May 1) published an opinion piece by the Irish writer Denis MacEoin, editor-designate of the Middle East Quarterly, reprinted from the Catholic Herald: “I hope that the pope will visit the Holocaust memorial and museum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, and while there he must do two things. He must denounce Holocaust denial, not as an error in fact, but as a deadly sin against the human soul. And he must ask for something reciprocal from Israel: a recognition that Pope Pius XII has been much maligned but that in truth he helped save the lives of many Jews. Israel would also be a perfect place for Benedict to denounce another churchman who has indulged in a similar distortion of the truth. Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican Council for Justice and Peace, recently bought into a smaller but equally vicious lie, namely that the people of Gaza live in ‘a big concentration camp.’ This sits next to other popular lies, chiefly that Israelis/Jews are really Nazis who kill babies for sport, or that there has been genocide, even a holocaust in Gaza … The ‘concentration camp’ claim is a blatant lie and an insult to the millions who really did suffer and die in the camps, and the pope must denounce it and chasten the cardinal who has promoted it. Only transparency can bring eventual peace to the region … The Pope must also address the widespread claim that Israel is an ‘apartheid state.’ This is both ludicrous and dangerous … The claim is another vicious lie and, given the Church’s commitment to anti-racism, it is fitting for the pope to expose the lie for what it is. Passing beyond the lies (of which there are dozens more), an urgent matter on the pope’s agenda must surely be the plight of Christians in the West Bank and Gaza … If the pope does not speak out and make this an issue of international concern, the bombings, the beatings and the intimidation will continue, and before very long the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem will be left to the tender mercies of Islamic Jihad. There is one other thing Pope Benedict should consider doing before he leaves Israel … Israel is the only country in the Middle Est where these places [belonging to the Bahai religion] would be safe … If the pope could stand in the [Bahai] gardens in Haifa and proclaim his abhorrence of all religious persecution, it would send out a firm message to bullies like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and those, like Hizbullah and Hamas, whom he controls. There is a deeper message that the pope is well situated to convey, which is that the truth is greater than the lie, and that there can be no peace while there is falsehood … It’s a great opportunity. I pray it is not too late for Benedict to take it.”

The Pope and the Vatican
Namer shel Niyar, May 3; Kol HaIr, May 1; HaModia, April 27; Yediot Ahronot, May 1; Haaretz, April 23 (pp.  3, 15), 26; Yediot HaEmek, May 1; Dakot 24, May 3; Jerusalem Post, April 30, May 1, 4; Mishpacha, April 30, 2009

In a speech in the Vatican before members of a charitable group, Benedict XVI asked for “prayers for all the peoples of the Holy Land” (Jerusalem Post, May 5): “‘In just a few days I wil have the privilege of visiting the Holy Land. I go as a pilgrim of peace,’ the pontiff said of his first papal trip to the Middle East. He said the region – ‘land of our Lord’s birth, death and resurrection, a sacred place for the world’s three great monotheistic religions – has been plagued by violence and injustice’ for 60 years. ‘This has led to a general atmosphere of mistrust, uncertainty and fear – often pitting neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother,’ Benedict said. ‘As I prepare for this significant journey, I ask in a special way that you join me in prayer for all the peoples of the Holy Land and the region. May they receive the gifts of reconciliation, hope and peace,’ the pontiff said” (cf. Dakot 24, May 3).
According to a second report on the same page, “Benedict says he is urging particular prayers for the Palestinians, whom he says have endured ‘great hardship and suffering.’” A further note indicated that “Pope Benedict XVI and President Shimon Peres will inaugurate a new tradition when the pope arrives in Israel in two weeks: They will plant an olive tree in a stretch of ground on the Beit Hanassi complex that has been designated as a peace garden. All world leaders visiting Beit Hanassi in the future will be asked to add their olive trees to the peace garden so that world peace will symbolically take root. Despite attempts in some quarters to envelop the papal visit in political connotations, Benedict XVI is coming to the Holy Land under the banner of peace with goodwill to all faiths and all nations. It is in this spirit that he will be greeted at Beit Hanassi by two children, one Christian and one Jewish, from Nazareth and Upper Nazareth who will welcome him to the land of milk and honey and present him with a basket of fruit containing the seven species … Aside from a gala red carpet welcome, the pope will be greeted by some 800 people, including Voices of Peace, a 50-member childrens choir of Jewish, Christian and Muslim singers from Jaffa; righteous Gentiles living in Israel; Holocaust survivors; representatives of the Negev and the Galilee; Noble Prize laureates; leading academics; leaders of Jerusalem’s three major faiths; and various dignataries. Special prayers for peace wil be recited by Jewish, Christian and Muslim spiritual leaders.”
The pope will receive an additional present: “Musliim calligrapher Yasser Abu Symeh has dedicated the past two months to Christian art, writing the Gospel of Luke in ornate Arabic script to be presented to Pope Benedict XVI when the Roman Catholic leader visits the Holy Land next month. Abu Saymeh never read a New Testament text before he was picked for the prestigious assignment by Bethlehem’s Christian mayor. He said he has since come to appreciate the shared strands of the two faiths. ‘I found that many of the things emphasized in Christianity exist in our religion,’ said the 51-year-old Abu Saymeh. The artist has nearly completed the Gospel’s text, which will eventually cover 65 poster-sized pages. It will be accompanied by colored drawings depicting the life of Christ, from the Nativity to the crucifixion … The pope will receive the gift on May 13, when he visits Bethlehem as part of a pilgrimage that also includes stops in Nazareth and Jerusalem, the other focal points in the life of Jesus … Every few days, a local priest checks completed pages for accuracy. The text and drawings will be bound in deer hide and presented in a mother-of-pearl box, a specialty of Bethlehem artisans … [Bethlehem] Mayor Victor Batarseh said he chose Luke among the four Gospels because he felt his writing contains the most detail about Jesus’s time in the city. And he picked Abu Saymeh not just because of his talent, but to send a message of peaceful religious coexistence. ‘It’s a message to the world that Bethlehem is the city where Christianity was born,’ he said. ‘It’s also the place of brotherly relations between Muslims and Christians’ … The calligrapher said he took on the mission, in part, because he wanted to send a conciliatory message and distance himself from extremists. ‘I would like this to be a message from a Muslim artist through this simple work that the Muslim artist is tolerant and not aggressive, despite abuses that may come from here and there from extremists who use our religion for their own interests,” he said’” (Jerusalem Post, April 30).
The Voice of Israel in Arabic is preparing special broadcasts for the pope’s visit, including a daily seven-minute spot devoted to sites sacred to Christianity (Namer shel Niyar, May 3).
Magen David Adom is also making preparations for the visit to cope with the possibility of assaults on Benedict himself – in addition to offering first aid to those participating in the masses and other events (Kol HaIr, May 1). The organization has also recently acquired a “naked” ambulance – without the Star of David or name, at the Vatican’s request – which will accompany the pope during his visit (Yediot Ahronot, May 1). According to Vatican officials, the request was made in order to conceal the fact that the pope’s entourage will be accompanied by an ambulance, raising the possibility in his followers’ minds that he might fall sick. The paper “discovered,” however, that “the pope has no objection to openly being accompanied by an ambulance in other parts of the world … Even during his visit to the country, he will be accompanied by Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances when he goes to Bethlehem. The PA has received no request to conceal the fact that ambulances are accompanying him.” The Vatican has denied the report, claiming that the decision lies in the hands of the local authorities. Sources in the Foreign Ministry have also denied it.
Despite reservations, the pope is set to visit the Western Wall (Mishpacha, April 30) (see previous Reviews). While the Wall’s Rabbi had objected to the intention to close off the area to Jewish worshippers, the police have apparently now rescinded this decision – including during the pope’s actual half-hour visit.
Beit She’an in the north of the country is set to host an event under the heading “Reconciliation, fellowship, and peace amonst peoples and religions” during the papal visit, to which local settlements and Christian Arab residents are invited (Yediot HaEmek, May 1). To be conducted in Hebrew and Italian, the event will be broadcast to 26 countries. The National Park was chosen not only because of its beauty but also due to its history of co-existence between different communities.
Under the headline “Local leaders have high hopes for pope’s visit,” the Jerusalem Post (May 1) noted that “Religious leaders representing the Muslim, Catholic, Jewish and Protestant communities met at the Notre Dame Cultural Center in Jerusalem on Thursday to voice their expectations of the pope during his visit to the Holy Land … The symposium was sponsored by the US State Department; Mercy Corps, a nondenominational Portland, Oregon-based aid organization; and the Interreligious Coordination Council in Israel, a coalition of 70 Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups … Bishop Dr. Munib Younan, head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, said he hoped Benedict XVI would support a two-state solution and reject ‘occupation and settlements’ … Father William Shomali, rector of the Latin Seminary in Bet Jala, said he hoped the pope would help Jews, Christians and Muslims to recognize the suffering of ‘the other.’ ‘The pope will visit Yad vaShem to recognize the suffering of the Jews, he will visit with the Armenians to remember their suffering and the 1.5 million who were killed, and he will also devote time to acknowledging the Palestinian people’s suffering,’ Shomali said. ‘I hope the Holy Father will help all of us escape our complexities of victimization. Part of the process of reconciliation is admitting one’s guilt’ … Prof. Mohammad Dejani, founder and director of the American Studies Institute at Al-Quds University in east Jerusalem and founder of Wasatia, a new organization for the promotion of peace, said that ‘extremists have taken power on both [the Israeli and Palestinian] sides. Religion should lead politics, not the other way around. The pope should take the initiative in this endeavor.’ Dr. Deborah Weissman, co-chairwoman of the Interreligious Coordination Council, said she hoped Benedict’s ‘ambivalence’ on theological issues affecting Jews would be clarified. The pope still had not made it absolutely clear that Jews did not need to embrace the belief that Jesus was the messiah to be redeemed, she said.”
A less sanguine view was proffered by the same paper on May 4, indicated by the deadline: “Benedict’s visit fraught with potential minefields: Palestinians sure to exploit fact that last day of trip is ‘Nakba’ Day.” From the Israeli side, however, all efforts appear to be devoted to making the visit a success: “In Jerusalem, Oded Ben-Hur, a former ambassador to the Vatican, said the pope would be welcomed as a friend of Israel. The visit, he told reporters, is proof that ‘relations between Israel and the Holy See are strong and solid.’ Benedict ‘has never missed an opportunity to reiterate his commitment to dialogue and to relations with Israel,’ Ben-Hur said.”
Security sources appear to be unworried that anyone will actually attack the pope during his visit (Haaretz, May 4, Hebrew and English editions): “The police and the security establishment have no specific information about potential attacks targeting Pope Benedict XVI, who is scheduled to visit Nazareth on May 14, the northern district police commander said yesterday … no requests had been filed to demonstrate against the Nazareth visit. The police will approve protest requests so long as they do not overshadow or disrupt the pope’s visit … The Foreign Ministry yesterday launched a Web site dedicated to the pope’s visit. The site – – is in eight languages (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Italian, German and Hebrew) and contains textual and audio-visual information on the papal pilgrimage, Israel-Vatican relations, and Christian communities and holy sites in Israel.”