- As Pope Benedict XVI prepared to visit Israel in early May, Jewish leaders involved in dialogue appeared to be hopeful and not particularly wary about what the pope would say. Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service:
Speaking in Rome in March, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, the U.S.-born chief rabbi of Poland, said the Holy Land trip can be "very enlightening and help Pope Benedict show in a very clear way" the sensitivity and respect that has been clear in his writings for decades.
In evaluating the pope's work, Jewish leaders appreciate several facts: Pope Benedict explicitly recognizes that God chose the Jewish people as his own and established a special bond with them; he recognizes that for centuries Christians used Jesus' death as an excuse to denigrate -- and even persecute -- the Jews; and he understands that the contempt some Christians had for the Jews created an atmosphere that the Nazis easily and progressively manipulated to the point of killing 6 million Jews.
But theological work does not grab the headlines the way gestures do and a Vatican explanation of a papal misstep may limit the damage, but it is hard to eliminate all suspicion.
- Jerusalem Post has a detailed story on Israel's Police helicopter unit, which will play a "key role" in providing security for the Pope:
"During the pope's visit, we will escort his convoy and broadcast images from the scene in real time to police commanders on the ground," said the pilot, Ch.-Supt. Nir Rosental, his voice coming through our headphones over the helicopter's internal communications system. "We will be working around the clock with a number of helicopters in the air."
The visit is sure to stretch the unit's resources - six aircraft make up the police's presence in the skies.
- The Consulate General of Israel in New York has released a Facebook application to coincide with Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Israel:
According to a statement released Sunday, the application, called 'Holy Land Trivia: From Creation to Creativity,' aims to help users "discover the country's holy places and modern sites." The program includes pictures of different places in Israel, a user-comment section, and three multiple-choice quizzes.Facebook users can download the app here.
The project's initiator, David Saranga, said, "Many people hear about Israel and the Holy Land in an abstract sense and we want to help develop their connection to the real place. We want to help people on Facebook appreciate the many sites in the Holy Land, including the Temple Mount, Bahai Gardens, and the Bauhaus buildings of Tel Aviv's White City, and share what they learn with their friends."
- A dress rehearsal will be held on Sunday to prepare for the landing of Pope Benedict XVI's plane at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Monday. The Haaretz article also reports some security concerns:
On Saturday police detained two East Jerusalem residents near the Temple Mount. They had hundreds of leaflets calling for a boycott of Benedict's visit to Jerusalem.
Last week, the police simulated several scenarios of attempted harm to the pope. Traffic patterns on the papal entourage's planned routes were scrutinized for bottlenecks. Congestion is expected in Jerusalem on Monday and Tuesday, because main roads will be closed while the pope is in the capital and on his way to and from Bethlehem.
The head of the police operations division, Maj. Gen. Benzi Sao, said last week that the police would have their hands full this week. In addition to the pope's visit, this week includes the Depeche Mode concert in Tel Aviv, the Lag Ba'omer celebrations on Mount Meron and the marking of the Nakba, or disaster, the Palestinians' term for Israel's independence in 1948.
- The Generation to Generation-Bearers of the Holocaust and Heroism Legacy organization is protesting the papal visit by encouraging motorists to honk their horns during the Pope's visit to Yad Vashem (Jerusalem Post).
- Air space in central Israel will be sealed off for 30 minutes on Monday to allow a helicopter convoy to transport Pope Benedict XVI to Jerusalem (Jerusalem Post):
After landing at Ben-Gurion Airport, the pope once again will be airborne, as he is flown by an Air Force helicopter to the capital.
Police helicopters will accompany him, marking the start of an intensive aerial security operation that will see police pilots closely shadow the pontiff. [...]
"This [the papal visit] is a historic event," Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. David Cohen said last week. "This visit has national and international implications from our perspective. We are committed to 110 percent success and zero errors during the visit."
- Haaretz profiles Nabil Aho, head chef of the culinary school at the Notre Dame Center -- "a school for French haute cuisine, with Mediterranean influence" -- whose students have been conscripted to feed Pope Benedict XVI and company.
- The red carpet on which the pope will tread on his visit to Jordan will be of Israeli make, from Carmel Carpets (Haaretz):
According to the company, an order for two 100 meter long carpets had been received from Jordan. The order was delivered within 48 hours, as all the workers chipped in to work on the carpets around the clock.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Israel prepares for the Pope's arrival (roundup)
"Pope Fever grabs Israel!", exclaims Israelity. As the first leg of the Pope's Middle East pilgrimage winds down, Israel continues to prepare for the pontiff. Here's a roundup of latest developments and commentary: