Israel reached an historical agreement with the Vatican to give up some sort of sovereignty over the “Hall of the Last Supper” on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. The Vatican will now have a foothold at the site: Israel agreed to give the Vatican first priority in leasing opportunities and access to it.
This was the culmination of a long campaign by the Roman Catholic Church to regain religious stewardship over the place where Jesus broke bread and drank wine with his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion, and where the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples at Pentecost.
The room is the third-most holy site in Christendom after the Sepulcher in Jerusalem, built over Christ’s tomb, and the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where the birth of Jesus took place.
A few months ago, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Vatican’s Council for Interreligious Dialogue, asked to place the Israeli holy site under Vatican authority. The problem is that the site is also King David’s Tomb, a complex of buildings of some 100,000 square feet where David and Solomon, and Jewish kings of Judea, are buried.
That's why the agreement constitutes sad capitulation by Israel to the Vatican’s efforts to “Christianize” the holy site, like when a Catholic convent was built in Auschwitz. In 1989, US Rabbi Avi Weiss protested against the Catholic decision to build the convent in the death camp. The cloister was a few feet from the barbed wire fence and Nazi guard towers. It also had a 23-foot wooden cross in the middle.
Weiss and other Jewish protesters scaled the walls of the convent and blew a shofar. Catholic workers at the site poured paint and water on the Jewish protesters and physically removed them. Will we see the same kind of episodes on the Mount of Zion?
Tell them noThe Diaspora Yeshiva, located in Mount Zion after 1967, says that the Vatican will turn it into a pilgrimage site for hundreds of thousands of Catholics and hold religious services there. In fact, during his visit to Israel in 2000, Pope John Paul II held mass in the Hall of Last Supper. The Pope knew that the site had a strategic location, as it’s just a few hundred yards from the Temple Mount and adjacent to the Old City walls.
The Vatican wants Israel to also relinquish sovereignty at the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. The Holy See uses the expression “Holy Basin,” which refers to the area of the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives, Mount Zion and a variety of Christian holy sites that many US governments also asked to be administered under a “special regime.”
Israel should no be bowing to the Vatican, as the Jewish State is admirably committed to protecting the holy sites of all religions and guaranteeing the right of worship for all faiths. However, instead of saying “keep your hands off Jerusalem, it’s not for sale,” the Israeli government accepted the Vatican’s ransom request.
In the long term, the gesture will increase tensions between Jews and the tremendously large assets of the Vatican. The Holy See has long been working to reduce Jewish rights in Jerusalem and in the Old City. Now, after the Muslim Waqf authority expelled the Christians from the site and turned it into a mosque, it’s the turn of the Vatican to lay its hands on the Jewish Jerusalem.
The goal is to ensure that a Jew will not set foot in the heart of Jerusalem, as was the case before 1967. Israel, tell them no with a capital N. Vatican’t.
Giulio Meotti, a journalist with Il Foglio, is the author of the book A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel's Victims of Terrorism
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