Unlike so many of our
rabbis, he did not curse, he did not call for
self-isolation, he did not preach the rejection of the other, the stranger
and the different. He opened his arms to the world.
His is the language of
symbols. His words were measured, but his real message was transmitted in
symbolic acts, in gestures, in body language and facial expressions. When he
kissed the earth in two places, when he went towards the Holocaust survivors
(instead the other way round), when he visited Dheishe refugee camp (which
is not a Christian holy place), when he went to the Rabbinate. This is a
language that goes straight to the hearts of hundred of millions.
When he was standing in
the darkness of the memorial hall of Yad Vashem, his head dropped, his face
tortured, mere words were superfluous. At that moment, the earth devoured
the Holocaust-deniers wherever they are. Billions around the globe sense the
bottomless evil of that awful happening. Even many Palestinians, who tend to
perceive the Holocaust as a Zionist propaganda ploy.
A day before the visit to
Yad Vashem, when he visited the Palestinian refugee camp, he transmitted in
his own way that the tragedy of one people does not obliterate the tragedy
of another, that no scales can weight their respective suffering. He took
into his shaking hands the heart of the Palestinian refugees, the neglected
and forgotten people, and put it on the table of humanity.
When he kissed the Israeli
earth, he gave the blessing of the church to the existence and wellbeing of
the Israeli state. When he kissed the Palestinian earth, he gave the
blessing of the church to the State of Palestine. One picture of the pope's
face in Bethlehem, flanked by Palestinian flags, was enough to finalize the
world-wide consensus that the Palestinian people are entitled to proclaim
their state this year, for historical justice and for peace with Israel.
Every second of this visit
was rich in emotions, symbols and gestures. Even the political messages -
and they were many - were expressed in this language. Unfortunately, this is
a foreign language to Israeli leaders, both political and spiritual. Even
when they at long last started on the way to peace in Oslo, they were unable
to make even one single real gesture from the heart, that would have entered
the hearts and created a spirit of peace. Every "gesture", such as releasing
prisoners and giving back land., was the outcome of endless haggling,
humiliations, accusations and postponements, so that in the end they were
nothing but dry peelings.
Between the Pope and
Yassir Arafat - himself a master of gestures - there was an immediate click.
With Ehud Barak, who suspects and scorns emotions, no such click was
Even before the end of the
visit, Israelis started to quarrel about who won and who lost. The answer
is: Peace won. The enemies of peace on both sides lost. Yassir Arafat gained
ground with his own people, because the visit clearly proves that his peace
policy bears fruit, puts the Palestinian cause on the world agenda and
achieves, step after step, world-wide recognition for Palestinian
independence. Israel gained by his ringing statement against anti-Semitism
and his making the world, and especially the young, aware again of the
terrible legacy of the Holocaust.
I am an atheist. I do nor
believe in any religion - neither the Jewish one I was born into nor any
other. I strongly reject the ultra-conservative views of this Pope in many
fields. But I deeply admire his personality. How wonderful it would be, if
contemporary Jewish religion were able to produce such a person, instead of
so many hate-preachers, amulet-peddlers and Goyim-bashers (whenever such a
This visit was not a
passing episode, a TV event that will fade away tomorrow. This Polish priest
entered many hearts, aroused admiration and impressed unforgettable pictures
in our memory. He enriched our spiritual world. Like the Israelite prophets
long ago, he motivated us, even ever so slightly, to listen to the Other, to
do justice, to be better human beings.
the Settlement Special]