Pope silent on sep­a­rat­ing Jerusalem from Jewish his­tory

The Canadian Jewish News (Montreal) - - Comment - Mordechai Ben-dat

When men and women of the cloth – lead­ers of re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tions – bend the­ol­ogy to­ward the im­per­a­tives of their po­lit­i­cal lean­ings, all they mostly achieve is the stain­ing of their cloth and the dis­cred­it­ing of their the­ol­ogy.

No re­li­gion is ex­empt from the earnest, photo-op­por­tu­nity dis­plays of a leader in­vok­ing or im­ply­ing God’s ap­proval of his or her pre­ferred po­lit­i­cal out­comes. One re­cent ex­am­ple of pol­i­tics sub­tract­ing con­sid­er­ably from re­li­gion’s moral weight oc­curred on Jan. 14 at the Vat­i­can.

The Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity (PA) opened the of­fi­cial em­bassy of Pales­tine in Vat­i­can City. Pope Fran­cis ef­fu­sively greeted Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas, a man he has pre­vi­ously called “an an­gel of peace.”

Ab­bas was nat­u­rally quite ap­pre­cia­tive of the Pope’s par­ti­san ini­tia­tive. “We are very grate­ful about the role that the Holy See has played for a just and last­ing peace in the Holy Land, and for hav­ing opened an em­bassy of Pales­tine in the Vat­i­can for the first time,” Ab­bas said.

Then, per­haps swept up by the sur­real cir­cum­stance of the oc­ca­sion, Ab­bas added: “We are proud to be the birth­place of Chris­tian­ity and about hav­ing one of the old­est Chris­tian com­mu­ni­ties in the world.”

How Ab­bas can rec­on­cile a claim to be the birth­place of Chris­tian­ity with the PA’S fre­quent, over­heated de­nials of any Jewish his­tory in Jerusalem might be ac­cept­able to the record keep­ers at Ri­p­ley’s Be­lieve-it-or-not. But it should not have been ac­cept­able to the keep­ers of the Ro­man Catholic Church.

Sheikh Muham­mad Ah­mad Hus­sein, whom Ab­bas in 2006 ap­pointed as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, has re­peat­edly de­clared that a Jewish Tem­ple never ex­isted on the Tem­ple Mount. In this, he was echo­ing Yasser Arafat’s fa­mous de­nial to then-u.s. pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton of the ex­is­tence of a Jewish Tem­ple on the Tem­ple Mount in Jerusalem. In­deed, less than two weeks ago, PA Jerusalem affairs min­is­ter Ad­nan al-hus­seini re­buked UN sec­re­tary gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res for say­ing it is “com­pletely clear that the Tem­ple that the Ro­mans de­stroyed in Jerusalem was a Jewish tem­ple.” Al-hus­seini said Guter­res had “vi­o­lated all le­gal, diplo­matic and hu­man­i­tar­ian cus­toms and over­stepped his role as sec­re­tary gen­eral… and must is­sue an apol­ogy to the Pales­tinian peo­ple.”

And while the PA pres­i­dent preened about hav­ing “one of the old­est Chris­tian com­mu­ni­ties in the world,” he omits the truth that Chris­tians have been in flight from the Pa-con­trolled ter­ri­to­ries ever since the PA as­sumed gov­ern­men­tal au­thor­ity af­ter 1993. Beth­le­hem was once 80 per cent Chris­tian. To­day it is about 15 per cent.

The Jan. 14 open­ing of the Pales­tinian Em­bassy in the Vat­i­can was the third in a tri­fecta of devastating blows – over a pe­riod of three months – to his­tor­i­cal in­tegrity and truth. In late Oc­to­ber, UNESCO ef­fec­tively erad­i­cated any Jewish con­nec­tion to the city of Jerusalem. In late De­cem­ber, Res­o­lu­tion 2334 of the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil pur­ported to make any Jewish ac­tiv­ity in the Old City of Jerusalem, in­clud­ing at the Western Wall, to be il­le­gal un­der in­ter­na­tional law.

There is no re­port how, if at all, Pope Fran­cis re­sponded to Ab­bas’ self-serv­ing fab­ri­ca­tions or to the blow he must have known the Pales­tinian leader had dealt to church doc­trine and his­tor­i­cal truth.

In­deed, the Vat­i­can has been sin­gu­larly silent re­gard­ing each of these three re­cent ini­tia­tives against Is­rael and the Jewish Peo­ple. What does the Pope say about the Pales­tinian lead­ers’ con­certed cam­paign to sep­a­rate Jerusalem from its Jewish his­tory? Does he have any­thing to say to the Jews of the world on this sub­ject? If not to the Jews, what does he say to his own flock, whose re­li­gious be­liefs also rest on the foun­da­tion of a Jewish Tem­ple in Jerusalem?

In the re­sult, we are en­ti­tled to feel a sense of dis­ap­point­ment and even out­rage at this in­ex­cus­able si­lence. And sad­ness too. For the world to­day surely needs stronger, not di­min­ished, voices of hon­esty and moral rec­ti­tude.

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