Saturday, May 24, 2014

Israel Welcomes Pope Francis

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency

Within 24 hours, the fourth Pope to visit Israel will arrive in the Holy Land.
Pope Francis is under no obligation to visit Jordan, Israel and Palestinians.
He is not running for office. He is not closing a business deal. Nor is he seeking to find a cheaper source of gas for the Vatican from the newly discovered gas and oil fields off the shores of Israel.

The Catholic church was not always welcoming of Jews and of Israel.
For centuries, Jews were portrayed as the rejecters of Christ, “perfidious” objects of contempt to be isolated and humiliated until they “saw the light,” a non-people shorn of their covenantal heritage including the ancient and biblical right to the Land of Israel.

Inquisition, blood libel, pogrom, burning of the Talmud and burning Jews at the stake, ghettoization and the Holocaust – these were the fruits of 2,000 years of vicious Christian anti-Semitism.

In our generation, one Pope was complicity silent throughout the Holocaust. Another Pope warmly embraced Egyptian born Yasser Arafat way back when (in 1982) when no one else would go near the terrorist mastermind. It took until 1993 for the Vatican to establish diplomatic recognition to the State of Israel.

But Pope Francis is a different Pope offering different solutions to a 2014 Middle East.
He comes to the Middle East, not as a politician but rather as a pilgrim on a religious journey.
Pope Francis comes to Israel with deep respect for the Jewish religion, for Muslims and the poor.

In Jordan today, he spoke out against the violence in Syria, where over 100,000 civilians have been murdered by President Assad. He will then take a helicopter to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ.
There he is expected to embrace himself in deep prayer. He may call for a Palestinian state but this must be balanced with a call for Palestinians to recognize the Jewish state of Israel.

The Pope, who is truly a man of peace, should also address Islamic Jihad - whose sole purpose is to convert or murder every Jew and Christian.

Pope Francis before leaving for Bethlehem needs to make a plea to end the Palestinian incitement against Jews. That propaganda posters that portray Israeli soldiers kicking and beating Jesus Christ be removed from every wall. If the Pope truly wants to create bridges of understanding - he must confront the hatred presently being taught by Palestinian Arabs to their children.

 Palestinians use blood libel and hate posters to welcome the Pope.

He must say to  Palestinian leaders: "Don't try to play divide and conquer between the Jews and the Catholics and Christians."

Pope Francis will visit the Western Wall, will lay a wreath on the tomb of Theodor Herzl and walk through the Holocaust museum of Yad Veshem in Jerusalem. He will show deep respect for the global Jewish community. And Rabbi Avraham Skorka head of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary of the Conservative Movement in Buenos Aires, who is accompanying the Pope to Israel, will make certain that there are no cultural mistakes.

Rabbi Skorka and Pope Francis are long term friends. Close friends who deeply trust one another.
They both embrace and practice interfaith dialogue, creating bridges of understanding and respect.
It is up to these two men to openly request of the PA and of the Muslim community to stop the seeds of hatred and incitement against the Jewish community.

Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently said that the prevalence of anti-Semitism in the West Bank, as noted in the Anti-Defamation League's global survey of the phenomenon released last week, is the direct result of the Palestinian leadership's incitement.

Ranking anti-Semitic sentiments by region, the ADL determined that the most anti-Semitic regions were found to be the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Palestinian anti-Semitism is “pervasive throughout society,” the ADL found, with 93% of respondents affirming anti-Jewish stereotypes.

When President Ronald Reagan visited Berlin in 1987 and demanded of the Soviet Union to "tear down this wall" - it is now up to Pope Francis to state "tear down the hate".

Israel warmly welcomes Pope Francis to Israel. We invite you, the reader to join us on Facebook to show your support. He is a good friend. He is an ally. Both Catholics and Jews face a common enemy.
If the Pope does not address Islamic Jihad and it's intolerance of "infidels" - Jews and Christians - he will have missed a potent opportunity.

The Pope is now going to visit the only democracy in the Middle East.
Israel which practices freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
Let's pray that the Pope speaks out against Islamic hatred and intolerance.
He will not be able to state such words in any other nation in that region.

Joel Leyden is a respected journalist and international media consultant who has lived in the Middle East for over 25 years. Leyden has served as a senior consultant to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and has assisted Israel in the development and use of digital media.