Being too sensitive

Posted: March 17, 2009 by Jonathan Boyko in Israel

PopeThe Jerusalem Post’s report, ahead of the Pope’s visit, talks about Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, the rabbi of the Western Wall, whose opinion is that the Pope shouldn’t wear the cross during his visit of the Western Wall:

Ahead of Pope Benedict XVI’s May visit to Israel, the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitch, has said that it is not proper to come to the site wearing a cross.

“My position is that it is not fitting to enter the Western Wall area with religious symbols, including a cross,” said Rabinovitch in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post Monday. “I feel the same way about a Jew putting on a tallit and phylacteries and going into a church.”

In November 2007, he refused to allow a group of Austrian bishops led by the Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schonborn, access to the site after the clergymen refused to remove or hide their crosses.

At the time Rabinovitch told the Post that “crosses are a symbol that hurt Jewish feelings.”

“Police and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) authorities met with me and presented certain demands for security during the visit that include closing the Western Wall to people who want to pray,” said Rabinovitch.

“For the past 42 years, no one has ever been prevented from praying at the Western Wall and, God willing, no one ever will. A solution needs to be reached that provides adequate security for the pope without infringing on the right of everyone to pray. The Western Wall belongs to everyone.”

Now, although I understand Rabinovich’s position, I do believe it is an over-reaction. I can understand why the ultra-orthodox want to bar the Christian religious signs from the Western Wall, in a city once occupied by the Crusaders; on the other hand, Christianity has change in many centuries since then, with most Catholic Christians actually supporting Jewish rule over the Old City in general and Western Wall in particular (during most of the Muslim rule, the Jews and the Christians either couldn’t practice their religion, build or repair religious buildings in Jerusalem or even pray in vicinity of religious sites).

Rabinovich should reconsider his stance. Besides harming relations with the Vatican – which I do not believe Israel should particularly care for – it could harm relations with the Christians, the actual people.


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