The first mailing of this course focused on the Jewish populations of Israel, with emphasis on the various 'edot' which comprise Jewish Israeli society. Little emphasis was placed on the minority Christian population which makes up only about 2% of the general population (with Catholics numbering only a handful in this diverse community). This lack of emphasis seems to reflect the general Israeli attitude towards this segment of society de facto, if not de jure. The recent millennium celebration which did not take place in Israel but which did take place everywhere in the world is just one example of the minimization of Christian influence. The true test of this attitude, however, will come next week with the coming of Pope John Paul II on his personal pilgrimage to the Middle East.
Already the media is gearing up for a major historical event, preceded by daily announcements from the Vatican. Noteworthy is range of reactions to the Pope's March 12 message (see below). Many Israelis, however, see the Pope's visit from a different perspective, colored by prospect of roads being jammed, the anticipated (dreaded?) influx of 80,000 (or more?) Christians and Shabbat violations which will anger segments of the Observant population.
One minor item which appeared in the recent English-language version of Ha'aretz was the report from Nazareth. The article described the growing piles of garbage which are the most visible result of an ongoing strike by the garbage collectors. This, in turn, led to a general "strike" by parents who refused to send their children to school. According to the article, the strike is being supported by the mayor as well. All this comes in the wake of a tempest which was raised by local Moslems and Christians over the proposed building of a mosque on property adjacent to the church. The Israeli government came out in favor of the Moslems right to build. The PA, however, attacked the government's decision, coming out in favor of the Christian church. (This, too, needs to be understood in the context of Yassir Arafat's claim that Jesus was the first Palestinian).
Please read the articles on the course selected from AP and Ha'aretz, and voice your opinion in our on-line learning group at http://www.jewish-world.org.il/vcongress/
From the AP as quoted by the New York Times
Pope John Paul II asked forgiveness Sunday for the sins of Roman Catholics through the ages, singling out the mistreatment of Jews and the violation of rights of ethnic groups.
The Day of Pardon Mass in St. Peter's Basilica was a highlight of the pope's campaign for a collective examination of conscience as his church begins its third millennium.
The pope's homily did not single out specific groups or historical moments, but special prayers during the Mass addressed general categories of oppression.
On behalf of the church, five Vatican cardinals and two bishops made a confession of sin, with a response from the pope.
Cardinal Edward Cassidy, raising the issue of the treatment of Jews, said "Christians will acknowledge the sins committed by a not a few of their number against the people of the covenant."
"We are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood," the pope responded.
"We are asking pardon for the divisions among Christians, for the use of violence that some have committed in the service of truth, and for attitudes of mistrust and hostility assumed toward followers of other religions," John Paul said in his homily.
Jewish leaders asked for reaction stressed the importance of the pope's action in seeking forgiveness, although they said they would have preferred specific mention of the Holocaust and the role of church leaders.
Hope for more specific declarations during visitBy Yair Sheleg
Ha'aretz Correspondent and Agencies
The papal request for forgiveness published yesterday has been met with criticism and disappointment from Jewish and Israeli quarters, for its failure to make specific mention of the Holocaust or the sins of the Church as an organized body - instead mentioning only the guilt of "Christians" - and for avoiding any mention of the historical connection between Christian anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.
On Sunday, Pope John Paul II asked for God's forgiveness for the sins of Roman Catholics over the ages, including those against Jews, women and minorities, in a Day of Pardon Mass at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. Although the Pope did indeed allude to the Inquisition, there was no specific mention of it or other major historical events such the Crusades or the Holocaust, in which the Church can be said to have played at least a passive role in oppressing Jews.
Professor Shevach Weiss, the chair of the international council of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and himself a Holocaust survivor, told Ha'aretz that "in general, it was a very important speech. It's certainly a great advance toward what needs to be done; both the ceremony itself and the use of the seven-branched candelabra. And it's definitely a clear antithesis to the approach of Pope Pius XII [who was pope during the Holocaust and who ignored the destruction of the Jews]. Nevertheless, I expected that it would be a far more focused speech in regard to the Holocaust. The present pope is a Polish native, and as a youth, he witnessed the horrors. He knows what happened, and he knows that we know that he knows."
Yet Weiss also expressed the hope that the Pope would touch on the Holocaust more specifically when he tours Yad Vashem during his visit to Israel.
Minister for Diaspora Affairs, MK Rabbi Michael Melchior (Meimad) refused to respond to the Pope's declarations, although a government source who deals with the issue said that there was great disappointment at the government level over the formulation of the Pope's statements. Nevertheless, it was decided not to officially respond to the statements, in order not to cast a pall over the upcoming papal visit.
Outside of the government, Jewish leaders were not so reticent to voice their distress.
Israel's Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Meir Lau issued a statement expressing his disappointment, saying that he was "deeply frustrated" at the Pope's failure to mention the Holocaust by name.
"To mention the Inquisition from the year 1492 and to exclude the Wannsee Conference from 1942 [at which the destruction of European Jewry was planned] demonstrates a severly warped view of history," the statement said, though Lau added, "I hope deeply that the Pope...whom I appreciate very much for his doings and for his condemning anti-Semitism, will complete the asking of forgiveness next week in Yad Vashem," he said.
In response to yesterday's declaration, retired ambassador Dr. Joel Barromi, who is a member of the Yad Vashem administration, called the acknowledgment of sins against all nations as "impressive." But he expressed doubt that it would give full satisfaction to Jews and fill the voids left by previous declarations.
Rabbi David Rosen, a member of the American Jewish Committee for Interfaith Relations and one of the prominent participants in the Jewish-Vatican dialogue, attempted to offer some perspective, saying that "the Pope himself has in the past spoken more clearly and fervently about the Holocaust and the sins of the Church toward the Jewish people in general. But one has to understand that yesterday's mass wasn't just a declaration, it was a formula of a prayer which the Pope has dictated to all believing Catholics, a formula that henceforth is intended to be included in the Day of Pardon Mass and in similar ceremonies. Therefore, the formulations were far more general.
We raise the following questions:
How does John Paul's pilgrimage affect the relationship between
1. the Jewish and non-Jewish populations?
2. Christian and Moslem populations?
3. What are the implications for the current peace process? What questions do you have?
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