- Pope Francis at Israel’s separation barrier
- Associated Press
BETHLEHEM, West Bank–Palestinians had been hoping that the papal visit to the West Bank would kick up international sympathy with their campaign for statehood and against Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, and many were pleased with his actions.
“It’s a great day for Palestine par excellence,” Palestinian Parliament Member Mustafa Barghouti said after after Pope Francis finished a mass on Manger Square in Bethlehem.
“It symbolizes that there is someone standing with us in the fight against the occupation,” said Joseph Handal, a broadcaster at a local Bethlehem radio station, over blaring festive Middle Eastern music that had a group of Filipino pilgrims dancing in the streets along the route of the pope. The visit drew busloads of flag-waving pilgrims from Argentina, Sri Lanka and the Philippines to the streets of Bethlehem.
Palestinian officials said the pope’s decision to arrive in Bethlehem directly from Jordan before moving on to Israel had great significance for the Palestinian campaign to assert independence.
But the Palestinians got the photo-op they had been waiting for when the pope’s entourage stopped en route to the Manger Square mass alongside a section of the Israeli separation wall in Bethlehem that slices off the old road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.
Standing in the shadow of an Israeli military watchtower, the pope bowed his head at the wall next to a door that is opened once a year to allow for the traditional Christmas Day procession from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Graffiti at the spot compared Bethlehem’s isolation to the Warsaw Ghetto, an observation that is likely to offend Israeli sensibilities.
Mr. Barghouti said the gesture was “more powerful than words’’ as an expression against the “injustice against the wall.”
At a coffee shop near Manger Squre after the service, Hedy Lama said she hadn’t seen the footage of the pope because was at the mass, but friends had told her about it later. “Everyone was surprised that he got out of the car,” she said.
“I think he made a prayer for barriers to banish. I think it is a message that he wants walls to vanish.”
For all the enthusiasm over the spotlight of the pope, Palestinians realize that his ability to change the situation on the ground is limited. “Yes it is a big statement,” said Nasser Nasser, the owner of the coffee shop. “But what is it going to change? Nothing. Everybody knows about the wall even without the pope.’’
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service — if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.
(via WSJ Blogs)