Pope Francis prays at Western Wall, leaving note for peace for Christians, Muslims and Jews

Pope Francis has invited the presidents of Israel and Palestine to the Vatican for prayers and talks early next month The Pontiff prayed at the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock – two of the holiest sites in Judaism and Islam He also visited a Holocaust memorial where he met several survivors of the Nazi regime and kissed their hands

By Darren Boyle

Published: 03:37 EST, 26 May 2014 | Updated: 11:05 EST, 27 May 2014

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Pope Francis today continued his diplomatic initiative to revitalise the stalled Middle East peace process with a hugely symbolic gesture beside one of Judaism’s holiest sites.

Standing in front of the Western Wall, the Pontiff hugged his two friends, Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka and leader of the South American country’s Muslim Community, Omar Abboud. Both men were part of the inter-faith delegation.

The three-day visit has been deemed a diplomatic success, despite some early controversy, after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres agreed to travel to the Vatican next month for talks.

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Pope Francis prays at Western Wall, leaving note for peace for Christians, Muslims and Jews

Pope visits Muslim, Jewish sites on last day in Mideast

JERUSALEM – Pope Francis called for Christians, Jews and Muslims to work together for peace as he toured holy sites in Jerusalem on Monday, the final day of his Middle East pilgrimage.

On an early-morning tour of key sacred places in the walled Old City, the 77-year-old pontiff first visited Al-Aqsa mosque compound, then prayed at the Western Wall which lies just beneath it.

The pontiff was rounding off a whirlwind trip which saw him issue a unique invitation to the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to pray with him at the Vatican to end their “increasingly unacceptable” conflict, as well as snatching a personal prayer moment at Israel’s controversial separation barrier.

Francis had promised the three-day pilgrimage, which began on Saturday in Jordan, would steer clear of political issues.

But he ad-libbed from his scripted speech to condemn anti-Semitism, religious intolerance and those behind conflicts in the Middle East.

“May we work together for justice and peace,” Francis said after being shown around the Al-Aqsa compound, which is also considered sacred by Jews because it was the site where their two famed Jerusalem temples once stood.

Entering the exquisite blue-tiled Dome of the Rock with its landmark golden cupola, used as a place of worship for women only, the pope first removed his shoes before walking down to visit the smaller, silver-domed Al-Aqsa mosque.

For Jews, the plaza is the holiest site in Judaism but they are forbidden by law to pray there, praying instead at the adjacent Western Wall, where the pope made his next stop.

Placing his right hand on the ancient stones, he bowed his head in prayer for a few minutes before placing a note in the wall, then sharing an emotional embrace with two close Jewish and Muslim friends travelling with him.

A controversial mass

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Pope visits Muslim, Jewish sites on last day in Mideast

You Came to Create Change

May 25 2014 / 5:47 pm

Crimes, Victims and Witnesses: Apartheid in Palestine by Mats Svensson.

By Mats Svensson

You come to Palestine as a diplomat, as a development worker. You come to create change. To make something better. Not for yourself but for people living on a small plot of land between the Jordan River and a wall. You are well educated, have a Masters degree or you might even have a PhD in political sciences, economics or social sciences. You can also speak fairly good Arabic if not Hebrew. You have a lot of useful experiences and have been to many countries in Africa, Asia or Latin America. Palestine is normally not your first country. You are supposed to create change, a real change. Thats your challenge.

When you leave two, three, four or five years from now, change has been created. Land has been stolen, houses have been demolished, people have been killed. Settlers have moved onto stolen land protected by the Israeli army. Change has taken place, it has become worse. You as a diplomat or development worker together with all others can now just feel that you have become a total failure.

You have been listening to Obamas speech in Cairo, believing for a few moments that it is happening. You have seen Blair moving in and installing himself at the American Colony Hotel. He moved in but did not come out. You have been listening to the Quartet, to Merkel, to the Swedish Foreign Minister. While they have been talking, while you have been listening, another house has been demolished and another family has been displaced. It often happened outside the compound of the diplomatic missions. On the other side of the road. You just couldnt miss it.

You have known it the whole time. You have written about it in confidential reports back to headquarters. Often, early in the morning when you drink your morning coffee, you got a message from a UN office; a house will probably be demolished today in Silwan, or a family will be forced out, 412 steps from Blairs bedroom.

Everything became clear to me one morning when I was having breakfast with two older men. One Palestinian and one Israeli. They are childhood friends and have breakfast together every three months. The Israeli man is now retired, but was recently head of Shin Bet, the Israeli Security Agency. Suddenly he tells his Palestinian friend, My friend, just make sure you have a good life. What do you mean, I live under occupation, how am I supposed to have a good life? says the Palestinian man. I know, but it is the only thing you can strive for, says the former agent. People forget and seem unable to read or understand what has been said. A long time ago, one of our leaders said, We just make sure that the world stays engaged in a constant peace process, but we never sign the peace agreement. And today, he continues, we are winning every day and there is not much more to take. We will never sign it.

In 2003, when I started to work on the book, Crimes, victims and witnesses: Apartheid in Palestine, I returned to Sweden at one point and began to talk about my experiences. That I thought there were similarities between what was happening in Palestine and what had happened in South Africa before 1994. I was then always criticized for this stance, questioned as if I had no perspective, as if I was completely without history. At that point, you could still in Sweden officially discuss and debate whether what Israel was doing could be called occupation, that it was occupying. Going one step further and also using the word apartheid was unthinkable.

Ten years have passed. Very much has changed. We have been influenced by Jimmy Carters book where he writes about Apartheid, and Desmond Tutus clear position. With President Mandela, there was never any doubt. Something that was unthinkable then has become commonplace today.

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You Came to Create Change

Netanyahu blasts Europe as 2 Israelis killed in Belgium

JERUSALEM: Israel on Sunday blamed rising anti-Semitism for a Brussels shooting attack which killed three people, including two Israelis, lashing out at Europe for “hypocrisy” in its attitude to the Jewish state.

As officials confirmed the deaths of two Israelis and a French national in Saturday’s attack on the Jewish museum in the Belgian capital, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to hail the visiting Pope Francis for his “determined stance” against anti-Semitism.

“We appreciate the pope’s determined stance against anti-Semitism, especially in light of the growing hatred of Jews that we are witness to in these days,” Netanyahu said, hours ahead of the pontiff’s arrival in Israel as part of a three-day Middle East tour.

The afternoon shooting shocked Belgium and drew condemnation from top European leaders, although Brussels said it could not immediately confirm whether it was “a terrorist or anti-Semitic act”.

But Netanyahu said the attack was a result of “incessant incitement against Israel by different elements in the Middle East and Europe itself,” denouncing the latter for what he said was a hypocritical attitude to Israel.

“There are elements in Europe that rush to condemn the construction of a flat in Jerusalem but who do not rush to condemn, or offer only a weak condemnation of the murder of Jews here or in Europe itself,” he said, referring to Israel’s ongoing settlement construction in the West Bank and in annexed east Jerusalem.

“Even worse, they applaud unity with terror groups like Hamas, which calls for the destruction of Israel,” he said.

The right-wing premier was referring to Europe’s welcome of an intra-Palestinian reconciliation agreement between leaders in the West Bank and the Islamist rulers of Gaza.

“We oppose this hypocrisy, we defy it,” he said.

However, he praised Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, who telephoned to express condolences and update the Israeli leader on the investigation.

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Netanyahu blasts Europe as 2 Israelis killed in Belgium

Netanyahu blasts Europe as 2 Israelis killed in Belgium museum attack

JERUSALEM – Israel on Sunday blamed rising anti-Semitism for a Brussels shooting attack which killed three, including two Israelis, lashing out at Europe for “hypocrisy” in its attitude to the Jewish state.

As officials confirmed two Israelis and a French national had been killed in Saturday’s deadly attack on the Jewish museum in the Belgian capital, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to hail Pope Francis for his “determined stance” against anti-Semitism.

“We appreciate the pope’s determined stance against anti-Semitism, especially in light of the growing hatred of Jews that we are witness to in these days,” Netanyahu said just hours ahead of the pontiff’s arrival in Israel as part of a three-day Middle East tour.

The afternoon shooting shocked Belgium and drew condemnation from top European leaders, although Brussels said it could not immediately confirm whether it was “a terrorist or anti-Semitic act.”

But Netanyahu said the attack was a result of “incessant incitement against Israel by different elements in the Middle East and Europe itself,” denouncing Europe for what he said was a hypocritical attitude to Israel.

“There are elements in Europe that rush to condemn the construction of a flat in Jerusalem but who do not rush to condemn, or offer only a weak condemnation of the murder of Jews here or in Europe itself,” he said, referring to Israel’s ongoing settlement construction in the West Bank and in annexed east Jerusalem.

“Even worse, they applaud unity with terror groups like Hamas, which calls for the destruction of Israel,” he said, referring to Europe’s welcoming of an intra-Palestinian reconciliation agreement between leaders in the West Bank and the Islamist rulers of Gaza.

“We oppose this hypocrisy, we defy it,” he said.

Earlier, foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP the two victims were a married couple in their 50s from Tel Aviv who were touring in Belgium.

“We have confidence in the Belgian authorities, in the justice system and the police to look into this horrible crime,” he said.

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Netanyahu blasts Europe as 2 Israelis killed in Belgium museum attack

VATICAN – PALESTINE Pope in Palestine: I offer my home in the Vatican" for a prayer meeting between the presidents of …

05/25/2014 12:26 VATICAN – PALESTINE Pope in Palestine: I offer my home in the Vatican” for a prayer meeting between the presidents of Israel and Palestine From the place where Jesus was born, Francis warns about the condition of children in today’s society . “Many children are still exploited , abused, enslaved , subjected to violence and trafficking”.

Bethlehem (AsiaNews ) – “I offer my home in the Vatican” for a meeting of prayer for peace between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres . This was the invitation extended by Pope Francis at the end of the Mass celebrated in Bethlehem, Palestine . The unexpected invitation came following a moment of silent prayer and reflection in front of the wall (see photo) which physically indicates the deep division , material and spiritual , which divides two peoples which the Vatican has always wanted to become peaceful neighbors in two States.

“In this place – the Pope’s words – where he was born Prince of Peace, I wish to extend an invitation to you, Mr President , Mahmoud Abbas , and to the President Shimon Peres, to raise together with me an intense prayer asking God for the gift of peace. I offer my home in the Vatican to host this meeting of prayer”.

“Everyone – he added – wants peace, many people build it every day with small gestures , many suffer patiently and bear the fatigue of many attempts to build it. And everyone – especially those who are at the service of their people – have a duty to be the instruments and builders of peace , above all in prayer .” “Building peace is hard , but living without peace is a torment. All men and women of this earth and of the whole world are asking us to bring before God their ardent desire for peace”.

The invitation of Pope Francis to pray for peace came after his encounter with the Palestinian authorities whom he had urged to find the “courage for peace ” and , yesterday , in Jordan where he had urged a commitment to ” build peace .”

But Bethlehem, the place where God became a child, led Pope Francis to reflect on and question the condition of children in the world today. If the Child born in Bethlehem was “a sign given by God”, “today too, children are a sign. They are a sign of hope, a sign of life, but also a “diagnostic” sign, a marker indicating the health of families, society and the entire world”.

The tiny Manger Square , where Francis Pope celebrated Mass full: at least 10 thousand people . There is also – until the consecration of the Eucharist – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and there is a small group from Gaza. Behind the altar, a large mural represents the three popes who , before Francis, have paid tribute to the place where Jesus was born : Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, pictured next to the Nativity. At the center is Mary, to whom , in the Regina Coeli , ” We entrust the future of our human family to Mary Most Holy, that new horizons may open in our world, with the promise of fraternity, solidarity and peace”. At the end of the square stands a minaret from which, regardless of the mass, the cry of the muezzin is raised.

Children, in the Pope’s words are “the sign ” of the state of health of the family and society. Because, as then, “to us, the men and women of the twenty-first century, God also says: “This will be a sign for you”, look to the child…”.

“The Child of Bethlehem is frail, like all newborn children. He cannot speak and yet he is the Word made flesh who came to transform the hearts and lives of all men and women. This Child, like every other child, is vulnerable; he needs to be accepted and protected. Today too, children need to be welcomed and defended, from the moment of their conception.

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VATICAN – PALESTINE Pope in Palestine: I offer my home in the Vatican" for a prayer meeting between the presidents of …

Jay Leno Presents Michael Bloomberg With 'Jewish Nobel Prize' in Israel

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Jay Leno, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

More than three months after hanging up his hat as host of NBCs The Tonight Show, Jay Leno has found a new holy audience for his comedic chops.

The 64-year-old late-night alum made his inaugural visit to Israel this week, where he hosted the first annual Genesis Prize ceremony, held in Jerusalem. The first-ever recipient of what has been dubbed “the Jewish Nobel Prize” is a fellow high-profile figure who exited his own public position this past year: former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The main event during the Thursday night ceremony saw Jewish-American business magnate Bloomberg awarded the Genesis Prize, which came with $1 million, which he announced he will use to establish a new fellowship under the auspices of the Genesis Philanthropy Group. Meanwhile, Lenos emceeing duties included his very familiar monologue setup, starting with him noting that the event was not unlike most Hollywood award shows, only with fewer Jews.

STORY: Jay Leno Joins Feminists at Beverly Hills Hotel Protest

Leno’s mostly political quips included references to ongoing media reports about the tenuous relationship between President Obama and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reminding the audience that May is Jewish American Heritage Month in the U.S., with Obama “calling it an opportunity to renew our unbreakable bond with the nation of Israel. And he knows its unbreakable, because hes been trying to break it for the last five years.

Leno also joked about U.S. Secretary of State John Kerrys role in trying to broker peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians in recent months, explaining he did some research ahead of his visit: According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, here in Israel the most popular boys name is Noam. Noam is the most popular boys name in the country. The least popular boy’s name? John Kerry.

Leno also familiarized himself with local indicted headline makers for his monologue, taking shots at former Israeli president Moshe Katsav, who is currently serving a seven-year sentence for rape, indecent acts, sexual harassment and obstruction of justice, saying Israel had some great leaders: David Ben Gurion, Golda Meir, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin. People were really touched by them. Well, of course, not as many people as were touched by former President Katsav.

A more recent aim was former prime minister Ehud Olmert, sentenced earlier this month to six years in prison on two counts of bribery. You guys are tough, quipped Leno. You sentenced your former prime minister to six years in prison — did you hear Olmerts defense? Not the best strategy. He blamed the whole thing on the Jews.

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Jay Leno Presents Michael Bloomberg With 'Jewish Nobel Prize' in Israel

What Pope Francis can do for Mideast peace

As Pope Francis sets off for his visit to Israel, Jordan and Palestine, his aims are clearly humanitarian, but he risks falling into the pitfalls of the political.

According to the Popes itinerary, after Jordan, and before Israel, he will be visiting the State of Palestine.

He will be meeting the president of the State of Palestine and after several hours bidding Farewell from The State of Palestine.

In using this language, the Pope and the Vatican are demonstrating their view that the State of Palestine exists.

The Popes itinerary also says that while in the State of Palestine, he will visit a Palestinian refugee camp and meet with Palestinian refugees. This refugee camp is located in the territory under Palestinian control.

This means that, according to his itinerary, the Pope is in the State of Palestine, and yet he visits refugees from Palestine.

In all other international circumstances, this would not be possible.

People cannot be both citizens of a state, living in that state, never having been displaced in that state and yet refugees from that state.

So why are there people living in Palestine called refugees from Palestine?

The answer is purely political. The people called refugees are forced to live in misery in refugee camps due to the belief that Palestine is not limited to the State of Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza, but that it includes, and should therefore supersede, the State of Israel.

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What Pope Francis can do for Mideast peace