Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the Notre Dame Hotel in east Jerusalem Monday night for a meeting with the heads of all religious represented in Israel was cut short by an unpleasant incident, after a Palestinian sheik interrupted his speech.
The meeting was attended by heads of the Rabbinate, Vatican State Secretary Cardinal Tarkisio Bertoni, heads of the various churches in Israel, Latin Patriarch Fuad Twal and Sheikh Taiseer al-Tamimi, head of the Palestinian Authority's Sharia Courts.
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Patriarch Twal began the ceremony and then invited the pope to speak. Both clergymen spoke of the importance of unity, brotherhood and peace.
The pope's speech was suddenly interrupted by Sheikh Tamimi, who began crying out at his holiness, asking him to "see to a just peace. A just peace means a Palestinian state in which Israel will stop killing women and children and destroying mosques, like it did in Gaza."
Those present in the hall attempted to silence him, but he continued, slamming Israel for "destroying Palestinian cities and erecting settlements on Palestinian land. Jerusalem will remain the Palestinian people's capital," he said in Arabic, and called on the heads of the other religions present to "defend the Palestinians and their lands."
The pope left the room immediately after Tamimi was done, passing on the traditional exchange of gifts.
The Foreign Ministry and the Tourism Ministry both rebuked Sheikh Tamimi's embarrassing act: "Israel denounces Sheikh Tamimi's hateful words, meant only to spread hatred between Israelis and Palestinians and between Jews, Muslims and Christians," said the joint statement