There is no other venue in the world with a backdrop quite like this one. It sits in the looming shadow of the West Bank separation barrier built by Israel, complete with a forbidding watchtower. The massive concrete slabs here are painted with anti-Israeli graffiti, calls for Palestinian freedom, and a white patch on which the camp's community center sometimes screens films. From the point of view of Palestinians who live here, there is no vista which conveys their reality better than this one.Read the rest of the CSM report.
"We want to show the pope the wall, and the big prison that the Israelis have put us in," says Samir Oudeh, head of the Popular Committee of Aida Refugee Camp, as he stands atop the long, narrow, open-air theater that hugs the wall. "This is our catastrophe, and we know that they don't want the world to see it."
Vatican officials made several visits here in recent weeks, but about a week ago, says Mr. Oudeh, he was informed that the pope would speak in a nearby school – and not on the stage. "We learned later that the Israelis put pressure on the Vatican to change the venue," he says.
An Israeli official in Jerusalem rejects the claim that Israel interfered with the decision, but expressed approval of the Holy See's move to avoid "politicizing" the papal visit. [...]
The local welcome committee for the pope, however, has decided to march on with their plans, setting the stage for a less-than-comfortable atmosphere on the eve of the visit.
- Palestinian lawmaker Essa Qaraqie confirmed that the Palestinian Authority has scrapped plans to receive Pope Benedict XVI during his Holy Land visit next week on a stage next to Israel's West Bank separation barrier. (Associated Press)
- Palestinian advocacy groups on Thursday urged Pope Benedict XVI to speak out during his visit to the Holy Land against what they said are "atrocities" committed against their people by Israel. (AFP)
- Adnan Husseini, special advisor to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, that there is a “war for each piece of land ... every tile in the house”; and he intends on getting the Pope involved (Israel National News)