Pope Benedict XVI will arrive in Israel
on Monday after a three-day tour of Jordan,
followed by thousands of Christian pilgrims. As the preparations for the historical visit are being completed across the country, it appears that there are some who are not so happy about the visit.
"The Catholic Church tortured and helped the Nazi oppressor annihilate the Jewish people. Now the head of this church, the pope, is coming to Israel," Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe, chairman of SOS Israel, told Ynet on Saturday evening.
On Saturday the pope said that his visit to the Middle East was a reminder of the "inseparable bond" between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people. He spoke from Mount Nebo,
the hill overlooking the Jordan valley from where the Bible says Moses saw the Promised Land.
He later visited the biggest mosque in Amman and said that it is often "ideological manipulation of religion sometimes for political ends that is the real catalyst for tension and division and at times even violence in society."
Benedict told the audience of religious leaders and government officials assembled at the white limestone King Hussein mosque that Muslims and Christians must strive to be seen as faithful worshippers of God "because of the burden of our common history" that has often been marked by misunderstanding.
"The man who was a member of the Hitler youth when he was young is here to receive the inheritance of those murdered – the holy Jewish sites," said Rabbi Wolpe. "The pope has come to pray at sites of religious importance for Christianity, and this contradicts our religion. He can be provided with all the services given to gentiles who come to Israel, but he must not be honored as the representative of the Christian religion.
"If he wishes to come here on a private visit – then by all means. No one is trying to stop his visit, but it's unthinkable that rabbis will meet with him."
There are also those among Israel's Arabs who do not welcome the pope's visit. Two Arab residents of northern Israel were arrested Saturday afternoon in the Old City of Jerusalem in possession of hundreds of leaflets condemning Benedict's visit and calling for a boycott. The two were taken in for questioning.
Some 80,000 members of the security forces will guard the pope during his visit. 'Operation White Cloak' will begin Monday and end Friday. An information center for the public can be reached at 1700-502-030. Updates on the pope's visit will also be provided on the Israel Police's website: www.police.gov.il.
On Tuesday, the pope is expected to tour Jerusalem and visit the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, the Hechal Shlomo Jewish Heritage Center and the Latin Patriarchy. On Thursday he will fly to northern Israel, where he will hold a mass on the Mount of the Precipice and visit the Church of the Annunciation. He is also scheduled to visit Bethlehem.
The Associated Press contributed to this report