(IsraelNN.com) The planned visit by Pope Benedict XVI to the Western Wall (Kotel) may force a ban on Jews from praying there for the first time since the holy site was restored to Israel after 2,000 years. Pope Benedict has said his visit to Israel in mid-May is devoted to “unity’ and “peace.”
Security officials have been discussing the issue with Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, who said he is vehemently opposed to the idea. Government authorities responsible for the safety of the Pope want to clear the area from the evening before his visit until he leaves.
“The Kotel must be open during the entire visit for every person who wants to pray,” Rabbi Rabinowitz said. “Jews have been praying at the Kotel for almost 42 years. There is no preference of one person over another.”
Jews were banned from visiting the Western Wall during the Jordanian occupation of eastern Jerusalem. Jordan also closed off all of the Christian churches, and Israel re-opened all religious sites to all faiths after recovering all of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War in 1967.
There are so many levels of irony at work here. It is horrendous enough that a Jew cannot even pray at the Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism without being arrested and prosecuted by the Israeli authorities, but the leader of the largest Christian church comes, (and a German Pope at that), on a mission of ‘unity and peace’ and there are those who would suggest no one can pray at the Kotel, the second holiest place in Judaism. Oy vey. I say, let him go to al Aqsa with his message of unity and peace and pray there - in the place no Jew can pray by law.