The political, "non-political" trip of the Pope – TWTW 12 June, 2014

Shalom all,
The last post dealt with the first day of the Pope’s visit to Israel. This post will continue a bit with that discussion, as well as relate to his second day here, as well as with what has been billed by some as the “Prayer Summit” for peace in the Middle East, that took place at the Vatican earlier this week.
Clearly, the Papal visit was not the only event that occupied the tabloids and self-proclaimed pundits of the media. While the Pope was here to talk about peace and love, his visit was trumped by European anti-Semitism, as Jews were killed in Brussels and brutally attacked outside of a Paris synagogue; media sources indicate that synagogues are being target by vandals all over the world; the IDF Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, had some sobering words for Israel and the world – the Hizb’allah, the terrorist organization in Lebanon, has more fire power than most of the countries in this region and enough to cover all of Israel; there is a push by some Members of Knesset to annex settlements – this caused the Treasury Minister to threaten to topple the government if that happens; a Bill that would allow judges to prevent convicted terrorists from being released in future prisoner exchanges, or peace deals, passed another stage on its way to becoming law – some see this as the end of the “murder deal”, opening the way for convicted terrorists to be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. But, all is not bad, Australia decided not to refer to East Jerusalem as “occupied territory”, thus incurring the anger of “Palestinians”, who threaten to urge Muslim states to reconsider their ties Canberra. The race for the presidency in Israel intensified and narrowed and some, who would have been perfect for that position, were either not interested, or were not able to be timely entered as candidates; Yesterday, the Knesset voted for Ruby Rivlin, as the new President of Israel. 
The Pope’s politicizing of his proclaimed “non-political” visit here – Recap
As indicated in the last post, Pope Francis had indicated that his visit to Jordan, the “Palestinian” Authority and Jerusalem would be “strictly religious”. His primary intention was to “pray for peace in this land that has suffered greatly”. But, as already pointed out, what most of the world understands as “strictly religious” and what the Pope understands by that term, are far apart from one another. This is the 21st century, where politicians make policy, good or bad. It is not the Dark Ages or the Middle Ages, where the Pope was the senior political figure, whose word was the equivalent of law and whose desires were to be immediately carried into effect. 
I’ve already made reference to the Pope’s political interference in the Arab-Israeli conflict, as it specifically focused on issues concerning the much touted, two-state, alleged solution that would lead to the establishment of a “Palestinian” state in the heart of Israel. Political symbolism, outright proclamations and reference to the ties between the Vatican and the “State of Palestine” and urgings to “end the conflict” formed the basis of the Pope’s first day in Israel, which was spent in the autonomous area of the “Palestinian” Authority. Between his words and his actions, the damage was done. The mainstream media filled their quota of newsprint, reporting on every statement and gesture made by the pontiff, while the “Palestinians” voiced immediate satisfaction with his visit to Bethlehem and gave broad pro-“Palestinian” interpretation to his express and implied recognition of “Palestine”. Indeed, rare were the media moguls who stopped for a brief moment to recognize that Francis spent more time in public politics than he did in public prayer.
The Pope’s unscheduled stop at the security barrier while in Bethlehem took Israeli officials by surprise and they needed to quickly come up with a counter-balancing, non-scheduled “visit”, in an attempt to even out the playing field.
What was reasonably expected from his visit did not come to pass. Perhaps a columnar list of expectations and actions, or lack of the latter, would paint a clearer picture:
Expectation – that he would:
1.  Address Islamic Holy War being waged against Christians and Jews
1.  Not addressed during his trip here, but mentioned in prior messages in other places
2.  Address the flight of Christians from Bethlehem, the birthplace of Messiah Yeshua, due to Muslim attacks against them individually and their property
2.  Not addressed
3.  Address the reduction in the number of people killed by suicide bombers in recent years, due in large measure to the security barrier
3.  Not addressed by him, but by P.M. Netanyahu and other Israelis
4.  Acknowledge simply that Yeshua was a Jew, thus simply putting an end to the endless and baseless claims of the “Palestinians” that He was a “Palestinian”
4.  Not mentioned, but when said that Yeshua spoke Hebrew, Francis replied “He was speaking Aramaic”. Netanyahu chose not to argue, but added: “He spoke Aramaic, and he also knew Hebrew.” 
5. Refer to the Jews, their return to their ancient homeland and the establishment of the State of Israel, during his speech at Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem), 
5. Not mentioned there
6. Apologize on behalf of “the Church” for “Christian” persecution of the Jewish people spearheaded by the Catholic Church, which was largely responsible for the growth of anti-Semitism, accusations of deicide, with forced conversions and martydoms
6.  Not mentioned, although upon his arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport, he said, in part: “Let us promote an education … where there will be no place for anti-Semitism in any of its forms or for expressions of hostility, discrimination or intolgerance towards any individual or people.” He also condemned the slaughter of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust and prayed “Never again, Lord, never again.”
Despite these clear failures to meet the expectations of many, including my own, it would be wrong, in my opinion, to say that his visit here was totally one-sided. It is true that he provided a political “shot in the arm” for Abbas and the “Palestinians”, but it is not certain that he acted with wrong motives towards Israel. In all likelihood, his stopping at the security barrier and his behavior and words there were the result of his being improperly or inadequately informed by his own aides and advisors about the security barrier. Had he been properly informed about the security barrier, it might have resulted in a word of encouragement and even thanksgiving for the lives that were saved as a result of keeping deluded “Palestinian” suicide bombers at a distance.
The pontiff made numerous references to the Arab-Israeli conflict and of his desire to see it come to a peaceful end. But, he also referred to Abbas as a “man of peace”, presumably unaware that Abbas, along with his faithful cadre of deceivers and exaggeraters, would always put his best lies forward. His stop at the security barrier was an attempt by the “Palestinians” to have the Pope’s visit enshrined in one photo that would be representative of his visit to this area. It was a blatant attempt to minimize his subsequent visit to the Western Wall, where Jews continue to weep following millennia of persecution after the destruction of the Second Temple. The “Palestinians” turned the stop at the security barrier into a photo-op, placing him in the forefront of the barrier, which is considered  as a symbol of stealing “their land” and restricting freedom of movement for the “Palestinians”. In this regard, the lie concerning the security barrier has been repeated over and over again throughout the approximate 10 years of its existence. They have expressed the lie in the U.N., with officials visiting from foreign countries and with tourists, who are fed the “Palestinian” narrative at every opportunity.
Although the itinerary of Pope Francis was planned well in advance, his being led to the security barrier by the “Palestinians” and his stopping there created no small public relations problem for Israel. It became necessary to do a bit of itinerary alteration by Israel, in order to attempt to counter the “Palestinian” propaganda that overflowed from the Pope’s visit to the barrier. He had agreed, in advance, to visit the tomb of Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, and to lay a wreath on his tomb on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. This, in itself, was a powerful message that was not lost on the “Palestinians”. After 110-plus years, when Herzl’s appeal to the then Pope, Pius X, to help in the creation of the a Jewish state, was rejected, and when two previous papal visits to Jerusalem did not include a visit to Herzl’s grace, the placing of a wreath at his grave by this Pope signaled a different attitude towards Israel by the papacy, perhaps as an attempt to right an historical wrong. The first Pope to visit Israel, Paul VI, in 1964, refused to even acknowledge that he was in Israel! Still, it must be understood that at a time when many in the world community of nations verbally attack Israel and attempt to equate Zionism with racism and, more recently, with apartheid, honoring the founder of the modern Zionist movement could cause many to rethink their positions and even change them. Of course, this presumes that this portion of the Pope’s visit was broadcast by the mainstream media in those countries, which is doubtful.
At this point, the Israeli departure from the planned itinerary was given opportunity. After leaving Mount Herzl and on his way to Yad Vashem, the pontiff agreed to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s request to stand alongside the memorial erected to honor Israelis who were killed in terrorist incidents. As he did when at the security barrier, so he did at this memorial – he bowed his head and uttered an unrecorded prayer. One of the diplomatic officials, who helped to organize the Pope’s visit, said that Francis strongly condemned terror while at this memorial site, saying: “Terror is absolute evil. It comes from evil and causes evil.” He then reportedly said, “Never again. Never again.”
Did the Pope’s stop to the terror-victims’ memorial balance out his actions and words at the security barrier? That depends on how much media press this event generated. From my understanding, the MSM either downplayed it, or bypassed it completely.
Perhaps the most memorable part of Francis’ visit was his brief time at Yad Vashem. Anyone who has been there has undoubtedly asked the question, “Where was God during the Holocaust?” The photos and artifacts that are displayed there boggle the mind and leave lasting images in our memory banks of man’s inhumanity to man. They are a frightful glimpse of the depths of depravity to which man is capable of descending and a reminder to us that if we don’t learn from history, we are bound to repeat it. I have often wondered whether some of my own aunts, uncles and cousins, and extended family, are among those photos that I saw there.
Before ascending to the podium, Francis kissed the hands of several Holocaust survivors who were present. During his remarks at Yad Vashem, the pontiff used the Hebrew word for the Holocaust, “Shoah”, setting it apart from other historical tragedies of human failure. It also was an affirmation of the existence of the Holocaust, which was a subject that many Israel bashers and anti-semites would have preferred that he would not address. He stated, in part: “Adam, where are you, where are you, old man? In this memorial of the Shoah, we hear this question once again … Who corrupted you, who disfigured  you, who led you to believe you are the master of good and evil? Not only did you torture your brothers and sisters, but you sacrificed them to yourself, because you made yourself a God…Once again in this place we hear this voice of God: ‘Adam, where are you?’… A great evil has befallen us, as such as that has never occurred…Grant us the grace to be ashamed of what men have done, to be ashamed of this massive idolatry…Never again, Lord, never again.”
Nevertheless, there was an expectation and even an anticipation that the leader of some 1.25 billion Catholics would apologize for the role of the Catholic church during the Holocaust. And in this regard, there was much disappointment. There are archives in the Vatican that pertain to the era of the Holocaust during which Pius XII was the Pope, which remain unavailable to Israel, indeed, to all “outsiders”. This, too, was and continues to remain a painful memory in the history of Jewish persecution, from Titus, to Constantine, to the Crusades, to the Inquisition, to the pogroms of Europe, to the Holocaust and to the new Christian anti-Semitism that is making its mark on the pages of modern-day history. (See Melanie Phillips’ excellent commentary ‘Jesus Was a Palestinian’: The Return of Christian Anti-Semitism)  Exactly how much of an impact his visit there, his actions and his comments would impact people again depends on how well the MSM reported on his time there. The great tendency of the media is to challenge the truth and be quick to attach itself to the lie. 
Although there were positive aspects to the Pope’s visit in and around Jerusalem, still, Israel’s concerns were not over. As they approached the Temple Mount early on the second day of his visit, he embraced the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, who is an out-and-out anti-Semite, who was appointed to his position by none other than Mahmoud Abbas. Hussein has been quoted as justifying suicide bombings, considers Jews to be enemies of Allah and has repeatedly accused Israel of plotting to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque. The Mufti didn’t miss his opportunity to tell Francis that Israel was creating hardships for “Palestinians” at that site. Needless to say, officialdom in Israel, including the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry, which organized the Pope’s visit, were not thrilled with his visit to the Temple Mount together with Hussein. But, officialdom here wisely decided not to make an issue of this, so as not to put a damper on the remainder of Francis’ visit. The Temple Mount is Islam’s third holiest site and the holiest site in Judaism, as the location of the first and second Temples, as well as the Foundation Stone of the earth.
The Pope, in his speech there, said “May no one abuse the name of God through violence, may we work together for justice and peace”, concluding his remarks with “Salaam”.
From the Temple Mount, Francis then moved on to the Western Wall, where he was greeted by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, and was given a brief history of the site, beginning from Solomon’s temple to the renovation of the Second Temple by Herod. In speaking with the Pope, the Rabbi made mention of the Temple’s “menorah” (7-branched candelabra), which was looted by the Romans after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and believed to have been to Rome. Emphasis was placed on the Jewish people’s return to Jerusalem after the Holocaust and encouraged all “believers” to abandon hate and anti-Semitism. 
Francis then prayed for peace and, as is customary, he wrote a note and placed it in a crack in the Wall. These notes are intended to be personal prayer requests from the individual to God and are not intended for publication. Nevertheless, his note was removed and its contents were revealed – it was the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish: “Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” I’m not sure which version this quote comes from. The rest of the prayer, as it appears in the last verse of Matthew 6:9-13, was not in his note.
There is a bit of irony in placing that particular prayer in the Wall. The irony has to do with the invitation extended by the pontiff to Shimon Peres, the outgoing President of Israel, and to Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the “Palestinian” Authority, to join him at the Vatican for an interdenominational “prayer for peace”. The absurdity of this event cannot be lost on anyone who understands who these men are and their perspectives concerning peace. Shimon Peres is a secularist, who does not even enter the synagogue annex next to the President’s Residence. According to Michael Bar-Zohar’s biography of him, Peres was quoted as saying that after he came to Israel, the synagogue was “no longer part of my Saturday morning schedule and the dialogue with a distant deity gave way to the close touch of the sea and the sand”. For him to represent Israel at a joint prayer meeting is nothing less than an insult and an affront to the One Whom he refers to as a “distant deity”. It is one of his last “hurrahs” before leaving office next month. [It should be noted that in the Pope’s meeting with President Shimon Peres later that day, Peres added fuel to the fire of politicizing Francis’ visit, by saying, among other things: “I believe that your visit and call for peace will echo through the region and contribute to revitalizing the efforts to complete the peace process between us and the “Palestinians, based on two states living in peace. A Jewish state – Israel, and an Arab state – Palestine…Your visit to the Holy Land is an important opportunity for a joint prayer to God in Heaven for peace. We would be honored to offer such a prayer either in our home or yours…A prayer that children will grow without danger to their lives. That a mother will bear her child without hearing a siren. That every man will sit under his vine or his fig tree untroubled. We will work together, Jews, Christians and Muslims to bring an end to the conflicts.”] The legacy of Shimon Peres will be dealt with at a later juncture.
The third member of this ecumenical prayer meeting was Mahmoud Abbas, who very recently established a unity government with the vehemently anti-Israel, genocidal-terrorist organization, Hamas. His presence at this meeting is just another media opportunity to present him, in the words of Francis, as a “man of peace”. The only one missing from that event would be Yasser Arafat, Peres’ friend and Abbas’ predecessor. Indeed, LORD, “deliver us from evil”.
And so, the “Prayer Summit” took place on June 8th at the Vatican. Each read selected religious texts calling for peace. It was in a great setting, a sunset meeting with Jewish, Christian and Muslim prayers in the shadow of Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican gardens, which was chosen as a religiously neutral place for the meeting. Ideal for maximum media coverage.
The order of the service was chronological, according to the oldest religion, Judaism, then Christianity, followed by Islam. Each was to speak of praise to God for creation, pardon from God for our failures and a request “of peace to the Holy Land and to enable us to be peacemakers” – with musical interludes between each section. One would almost expect a three-part harmony refrain of “Kumbaya” to be sung at this convocation.
Peres said: “I was young. Now I am old. I experienced war. I tasted peace. Never will I forget the bereaved families, parents and children, who paid the cost of war. And all my life I shall never stop to act for peace, for generations to come. Let’s all of join hands and make it happen.” Yet, one would be hard pressed to find any reference to God in his speech, other than the one time that God was mentioned in the Psalm that was quoted by Peres. The Pope referred to God 9 times and even Abbas referred to God 5 times in his “political prayer”.
In a nutshell, the Pope urged Israel and the “Palestinians” to get back to negotiating and to usher in a new era of coexistence, saying, in part: “Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare…It calls for the courage to say “yes” to encounter and “no” to conflict.” 
Finally, Abbas prayed: “O Lord, bring comprehensive and just peace to our country and region so that our people and the peoples of the Middle East and the whole world would enjoy the fruit of peace, stability and coexistence.” According to one media source, Abbas wanted to make a “combative speech”, but toned it down at the end, speaking not only of peace, but “a just peace, dignified living, and liberty … in our sovereign and independent state.” Yada, yada, yada…
A person close to the Pope was asked before the ceremony in the Vatican gardens whether Francis believed he could succeed where U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, failed. The response was: “This Pope knows he probably won’t be able to make peace. But preventing war – that he can do.” I wonder what this acquaintance of Francis knows that we don’t.
So, what are we to conclude about the Pope’s visit? I think the question needs to be rephrased as we always do here and ask: Was his visit good for the Jews? Much as I would want the answer to be in the affirmative, my gut response is that Francis’ visit to the security barrier will be remembered by the world – thanks to the media – more than any other part of his visit. 
Jack Khoury, writing for the leftist newspaper, Haaretz, posted an op-ed entitled “A Palestinian Victory”, and pointed out, among other things, that the Pope’s decision to stop at the security barrier in Bethlehem and pray was a testament to his recognition of the “Palestinian” cause and his support of it: “The wide-ranging international coverage that accompanied the visit offered a great opportunity for PA spokesmen to get their message across precisely now, at the moment of crisis in the diplomatic process. But more than that, there is no doubt that the pope offered a tailwind to the “Palestinians” to their public relations campaign they’ve been advancing in past months.”

Before concluding this missive, it would be beneficial to focus a few words about the originally unscheduled stop at the terror memorial. As mentioned above, Francis’s departure from his itinerary and stop at the security barrier in Bethlehem was a carefully planned, public relations event by the “Palestinians”, to which Israel had no choice but to respond. It appears that the head of the Foreign Ministry’s World Religions department came up with the idea to ask the Pope to visit the memorial set up for victims of terrorism and to use that opportunity to show him and the rest of the world why the security barrier in Bethlehem, and elsewhere, was set up. As one diplomat put it: “The Vatican officials explained to us that the pope didn’t pray against the separation barrier, but he prayed against the situation that forces such a wall to be built…Therefore, we though we need to show him why we built the wall. It’s obvious that the barrier is a result of something, it is not the reason.” The Prime Minister then gave his approval to the plan, which was presented by the Foreign Ministry to the Vatican official in charge of protocol, who immediately agreed to it. That set the stage for the meeting between the Pope and Netanyahu and the P.M.’s opportunity to defend the existence of the security barrier.
The Prime Minister’s office released a video of the Pope’s visit to the terror victim’s memorial, showing the P.M. telling him a story of a classmate of one of his sons, a girl who was blown up “because there was no fence, no wall“. The Pope then spoke out against terrorism, saying: “The path of terrorism is fundamentally criminal”, adding that he prays for all terror victims. But, Netanyahu drove the nail home when he said, “We have to build a wall against those who teach [violence]”, adding that “when incitement and terror against Israel stops, there won’t be the need for the security fence, which has saved thousands of lives” and that “there would be peace”
It seems that lots of folks want the wall to come down, but for different reasons. Even Naftali Bennett, the head of the Jewish Home party, could agree to it being removed. In an op-ed that appeared in The Wall Street Journal following the Pope’s visit, Bennett referred to his “Stability Plan,” a diplomatic initiative that, in essence, would grant to the “Palestinians” autonomous rule in the various towns and villages already under their control, by reason of their being in areas designated as A and B. Along with this, Israel would remove checkpoints and roadblocks in Judea and Samaria, dismantle the security barrier and annex Area C. As further support of the Prime Minister’s explanation to the Pope about the security barrier, Bennett wrote: Many Israelis credit the barrier with the dramatic increase in security over the past decade. Not a single Israeli was killed by terror in the West Bank in 2012, making it the first year without bloodshed since 1973. Yet this was not solely due to the barrier. The remarkable drop in terror happened thanks to high-quality intelligence coupled with Israel’s ability to conduct targeted military operations in the West Bank. The number of Israeli operations in the West Bank has dropped significantly because the military now only carries out pinpointed operations based on reliable intelligence. … Israel can now stay reasonably secure without the barrier.(my emphasis) If this is the perspective of the former head of Yesha (Judea and Samaria) Council, what are we to think? We should think Biblically. Bennett’s statement sure sounds like a passage from Ezekiel 38:10-12, which states: ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “It will come about on that day, that thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil plan, and you will say, ‘I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will go against those who are at rest, that live securely, all of them living without walls and having no bars or gates, to capture spoil and to seize plunder, to turn your hand against the waste places which are now inhabited, and against the people who are gathered from the nations, who have acquired cattle and goods, who live at the center of the world.’  (my emphasis)
So, was the Pope’s visit good for us? Time will tell.
The Knesset voted two days ago to make Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin our new President. 
Yeah! More on this to follow.
And THAT was the visit that was here … and the visit that was there. May we be spared such visits in the future.
The regular TWTW will be resumed, hopefully, this coming weekend.
Bless, be blessed and be a blessing,


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