The Pope in Jerusalem: Why the Jews Are Not Happy

By Yuter, Alan J. | Midstream, May-June 2000 | Go to article overview

The Pope in Jerusalem: Why the Jews Are Not Happy


Yuter, Alan J., Midstream


The pope's visit to Jerusalem was spun by the Holy See as an act of reconciliation. Yet the Jews were not happy. The State of Israel received the head of the Papal state as a head of state, following all proper protocol. Israel, the Jewish state, would follow the rules of state and apply the Maimonidean rule of taking rather than giving insult. We must be very proud of Israel for being the gracious host and responding properly to a very delicate situation.

John Paul II admitted that Christians behaved badly toward the Jews; he condemned antisemitism, and expressed sadness. The pope also proclaimed that the Palestinians have a right to a homeland, and this remark was made after he claimed that his visit to the "Holy Land" was pastoral, not political.

The pope proclaimed that "he understands the suffering of the Palestinians." He reminded them that they "have been deprived of many things which represent basic needs of the human person, proper housing, education, health care, and work." and he concluded that the Palestinians "have a natural right to be able to live in peace and security with the other peoples of this area."

What is implied by these statements, each of which is innocent out of context? It is that Israel is keeping the Palestinians from their natural rights. Never in the history of the papacy was it conceded that the Jews have a natural right to their land, unless, of course, they stop being Jews. That the many Arab nations are not caring for the Palestinians, and that the poor housing, education, and health care of Gaza is due to the inefficiency and graft of the Palestinian Authority has gone without discussion or explanation. The pope declares that the Palestinians' "torment is before the eyes of the world." So was the torment of the Jews during the Holocaust. Pius XII had little to say and so did the youthful John Paul II.

In Christianity, repentance is a conversion experience. The outsider enters the club of the elect, the church of the saved, the possessors of the truth, the salvation, and the life. In the Jewish tradition, repentance means "return," not conversion. If a person offends another, he or she must pacify the other.

This reconciliation is not accomplished by declaring that "we are grieved that a wrong has taken place," or, in this context, there were Christians who behaved wrongly. Christians behaved wrongly because the Church allowed them to behave wrongly.

At Yad Vashem, the pope expressed the "need for silence." Silence means 1) that the enormity of the Holocaust obscenity is so great that words are not adequate; and 2) since there is a "need for silence," the Church does not need to present the record of what it did and did not do during the Holocaust. The Church believes that by rejecting its hero as god and messiah, Jewry forfeited its right to salvation and its land. Until this issue is addressed honestly, there is, in my mind, little room for discussion. The Church opposed the State of Israel's very existence as long as it could, it supports the internationalization of Jerusalem only when Jews are in power, but not when the Jews are not in power. …

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