On the second day of a sensitive trip to Israel the Pope visited powerful symbols of Judaism and Islam in Jerusalem. Following tradition, Benedict placed a written prayer among the stone blocks of the Western Wall – the holiest place for Jews.
It read: “Send your peace upon this Holy Land, upon the Middle East, upon the entire human family.” A central theme of his Middle-East tour is the fostering of better dialogue between faiths. But the pontiff’s comments have failed to win over all Jewish sentiment. Earlier, he had gone to the Dome of the Rock to meet the Palestinians’ senior Muslim cleric, the Grand Mufti. It is the place where Muslims believe the prophet Mohammed rose to heaven and has been the focus of tensions ever since the Israelis captured Jerusalem’s old city in 1967. Yesterday at the Holocaust memorial, the German-born Benedict called the Shoah an horrific tragedy. But that was not enough for some. Holocaust survivor and former Chief Rabbi of Israel, Israel Meir Lau said: “John Paul II spoke about millions of Jews, were ‘murdered’ in the Holocaust. He (Benedict XVI) didn’t use the word ‘murdered’ he used the word ‘killed’. It’s not the same. He didn’t say who killed them. John Paul II spoke about the ‘Nazis’. In this speech the word ‘Nazis’ doesn’t exist.” The speaker of Israel’s parliament went even further in berating the Pontiff, saying he cannot ignore the fact that as a young German during the war, the Pope was drafted into Hitler’s army which was an instrument of the extermination.