by David M. Weinberg
Pope Francis should and will receive a warm welcome in Israel today. That said, I think it incumbent on the pope to take further strides toward Israel and Jews when he speaks in Jerusalem.
I'm tired of hearing the Vatican talk mainly about justice for the Palestinians, without demanding any concrete, responsible behavior from the Palestinian Authority. It is time for the pope to call upon the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. It is high time for the pope to publicly acknowledge Israel's magnanimous stewardship of Jerusalem. And it would be appropriate for the pope to explicitly distance Rome from the radical Protestant churches that seek to boycott Israel and that deny the Jewish people's innate connection to the Land of Israel.
I've helpfully penned some language for the pope. This is what I'd like to hear from him in the coming days:
"The Heavenly Father is today peering down at us from his perch above as we kneel in penitence and renewed brotherhood. I wish to repeat in the strongest possible way that hatred of Jews, of Judaism, and of the Jewish State of Israel stand in complete contradiction to the Christian vision of human dignity. Anti-Semitism is a sin against God. Calls for the eradication of the State of Israel constitute a great sin against God. Attempts to single out, boycott and demonize the State of Israel are intensely sinful too.
"The permanence of Israel is part of God's design to enrich the world, to make it a better place for His children. Sustained by its faith in the Lord, even in its millenary dispersion, the Jewish people has preserved its identity, its rite, its tradition, and its special connection to the land of the Bible.
"As I travel this Holy Land and this reborn State of Israel, I am astonished and grateful for what you have achieved. The state that you have built, the society that you have fashioned, the landscapes that you have quickened into life, the kinsmen that you have gathered in, the passions that have been roused and the inexpressible hopes that have been kindled because of them.
"Indeed, the establishment, survival and advancement of the State of Israel are more than mere political facts in the consciousness of believers. The State of Israel stands as vindication of the spirit; as validation of the tenaciousness of faith; as providential consolation.
"I acknowledge the Jewish people's historical and religious roots, and national rights, in this land and this Holy City of Jerusalem, while concomitantly upholding the rights of others. I deeply understand and appreciate Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people, and call upon the Palestinian people to so likewise in order to bring true peace. I believe that the two peoples can live side by side in mutual recognition and dignity, bringing about an end to all claims in a long conflict.
"While this holy city of Jerusalem belongs to believers of all three great faiths, I must gratefully acknowledge that under your administration for the past almost 50 years Jerusalem has flourished like never before and has been kept open to all who seek to worship God.
"I furthermore find myself obliged to salute the State of Israel for its promotion and protection of Christian rights and institutions in this holy land, across seven decades. I am, of course, disturbed by recent reports of vigilante assaults on Christian properties, but I expect and know that Israel will act to suppress these acts of faithlessness.
"Alas, I cannot fail to note and lament the fact that in Arab and Islamic lands across the Middle East, mass persecution of Christians and wanton destruction of Christian holy sites and properties has become the norm. Entire Christian communities in Egypt, Iraq and Syria, which have existed for centuries, are essentially being wiped out. Human and religious rights have been trampled under the boot of radical ideologies and vicious dictatorships.
"Let us pray here together for the security, justice and recognition for Israel that she so richly deserves; for the justice that is the right also of your neighbors; and for the grace of a real and deep brotherhood between our faith communities. May peace dwell in your walls, prosperity in your palaces. Amen."
David M. Weinberg
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