Chief Rabbinate: Holy Land assets cannot be turned over to Vatican
In response to reports of negotiations on the possible transfer of dozens of holy sites in Israel to Vatican control ahead of pope's visit, Holy Sites Commission member Rabbi Kook says 'this unprecedented historical disgrace threatens the very existence of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish nation'
The Chief Rabbinate issued a special clarification Wednesday stating that according to halachic rule, no Holy Land assets can be handed over to the Vatican.
The ruling followed Pope Benedict XVI's request to be given the title to several of the Christian faith's holy sites, ahead of his upcoming visit to Israel.
On Tuesday the Rabbinate's Holy Sites Commission convened an emergency session on the matter, after which it issued a statement demanding that the government "cease all discussions on the matter".
Sources within the committee told Ynet that the Foreign Ministry tried to pressure Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger into calling off the meeting.
The statement further read that the Holy Sites Commission convened the meeting after being approached by "rabbis from Jewish communities around the world who expressed their shock and amazement over reports of negotiations on the possible transfer of holy sites in Jerusalem and throughout all of Israel to the Vatican's control."
Rabbi Simcha Hakohen Kook, a member of the commission, told Ynet that he has obtained a list of dozens of sites the pope is asking that Israel hand over to the Vatican's control -19 in the West Bank and 28 in Jerusalem – including the Last Supper room on Mount Zion.
According to Rabbi Kook, government officials have confirmed that negotiations were being conducted.
"This unprecedented historical disgrace threatens the very existence of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish nation," he said, "they cannot ask for places that were conquered during the crusades 800 years ago, because they have belonged to us for more than 2000 years.
"The fact that we conquered (east Jerusalem) in 1967 is irrelevant; just as the Indians can't banish (US President Barack) Obama from Washington," said Kook.
According to him, should the Vatican gain sovereignty over the Last Supper room, "millions of Christian pilgrims will flock to the site, and this will threaten our presence in the (Old City's) Jewish Quarter and even our access to the Western Wall."
In a direct attack on the pope, Rabbi Kook said "he only supports the Palestinians, and hasn’t said a word about the eight years of terror Israel's southern region has endured (Qassam attacks) or about the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.
"There is a memorial for the Holocaust victims on Mount Zion, and now they want to give the site to someone who has people working for him who deny the Holocaust ever existed."
Meanwhile, Rabbi Dov Lior, head of the Yesha rabbinical council, issued a statement Wednesday in which he said it was "unthinkable to hand over to the Vatican any piece of our holy land.
"The church's outlook on Judaism and the Israeli people did not change following the establishment of the State of Israel; neither has its outlook on Judaism," the rabbi said. He pointed out that Pope Benedict had recently rehabilitated a traditionalist bishop who denied the Holocaust.
However, the statement also said that "should the Vatican recognize the Land of Israel as the Jews' historic and national homeland, it will be possible to bring the religions closer together.
"We expect the pope to apologize for the church's responsibility for the murder of millions of Jews over the past 2,000 years," it said.