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WAWA/WeAreWideAwake is my Public Service to America as a muckracker who has journeyed seven times to Israel Palestine since June 2005. WAWA is dedicated to confronting media and governments that shield the whole truth.

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Home arrow Blog arrow April 2009 arrow April 23, 2009

April 23, 2009
April 23, 2009: What Jesus Might Tell the Pope Regarding Gaza UPDATE May 11, 2009 LEADS
How much Politics can the Pope Take?

May 11, 2009

Much hoopla is surrounding the five-day visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Palestine and Israel this week. One only has to walk through the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City to sense the anticipation. Along the Via Delarosa and up to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and around near Jaffa Gate and the church there, yellow and white Vatican banners are strung all along the streets. Posters of the pontiff are plastered on windows throughout the Christian quarter and loyal servants of the faith can be seen making last minute touches to the floors and entranceways of churches and alleys where the Pope will walk.

Around the Aqsa Mosque Compound, where the Pope is scheduled to visit on May 12, people living directly around the courtyard have been ordered not to leave their houses. Some cannot even open their windows during the Pope’s tour of the Muslim holy site. Security will reportedly be extremely tight as the Pope visits some of Christianity’s holiest spots and also Islam’s places of worship to encourage religious tolerance in a place where religion often tears people apart instead of uniting them. Some schools in Jerusalem have shut their doors for the two days the Pope will be in the city, mainly because the roads will be closed to traffic. While students are jubilant over having two study-free days, businesses along the Via Dolorosa are not as happy. One hair salon owner, who is a practicing Christian, is already peeved at the fanfare around the papal visit. “It’s exaggerated,” he said. “I will have to close shop for three days because of the Pope. That means three days of financial loss.”

While the Pope’s visit is supposedly designed as a pilgrimage and devoid of any political undertones, anyone with even the slightest knowledge of the Middle East knows this is just not possible. The fact that he is landing in Tel Aviv, will meet with Israeli dignitaries first and visit Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum before visiting his own faith’s landmarks means politics will always come first in our region.

The Palestinians, however, are trying to make the best of the visit. The Pope will not only visit the holy sites, but will tour the Aida Refugee Camp, perhaps a kind of parallel visit to counter Yad Vashem. If he is to pay his respects to the fallen Jews of the Holocaust, then he should also acknowledge the ongoing suffering of Palestinian refugees. Israel, however, is making sure not too much Palestinian politics get in the way. Israeli authorities reportedly made the organizers change the place of the podium where the pope will stand in the camp so pictures of him will not include the gray cement separation wall in the backdrop.

Also, in preparation for the Pope, the Palestinian Media Center set up a press office, working out of Jerusalem’s Ambassador Hotel. A press conference was to be held coinciding with Benedict’s arrival to Israel at noon today. Early on, Israeli radio and press announced it would ban the press conference. Israeli police showed up early this morning and handed the hotel’s management the order.

No surprise, obviously. The Palestinian press room has been preparing documents and reports on Israel’s violations in the holy city and its impingement on religious rights, including denial of access for Palestinian Christians and Muslims to their places of worship. This is not something Israel wants highlighted to the pontiff, especially since he has been preaching religious tolerance and interfaith relations throughout his eight day trip, which began in Jordan.

These next couple of days will be the true testimony of how the Pope handles the extremely delicate balance between Israeli and Palestinian sentiments. He has already angered both Muslims and Jews since taking office, the first by making controversial statements about Islam and the latter by rescinding the excommunication of a bishop who apparently denied the Holocaust.

So, the pontiff will have to tread lightly through this landmine-filled country if he is to truly build bridges of faith. Being one of the most influential people in the world, the Pope has a golden opportunity to spread the word of tolerance to some people who desperately need to hear it. What he may not realize is that in Palestine, Christian-Muslim relations are extremely positive and basically embody what any preacher of faith espouses. It is not even the question of Jewish-Muslim or Jewish-Christian relations that need to be repaired. It is more of Palestinian-Israeli relations, which have been sucked up into a religious web because of Zionism’s exploitation of Judaism. Judaism and Israel have become synonymous to many, not because people are stereotypical or because they are ‘anti-Semitic’ but because that is how Zionism intended it. If it were not for Zionism and its project to usurp another people’s homeland and continue to oppress them until date, neither Palestinian Christians nor Muslims would have any serious bones to pick with Jews.

Let’s hope Pope Benedict XVI sees this when he visits Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Yes, politics may not be the most important aspect of his trip given that he is the leader of the Catholic faith, but he cannot deny the political dimensions of the place if he is to fulfill the goal for which he is coming. Israel cannot continue to claim it is democratic and allows freedom of worship as it oppresses and denies those living under its occupation of this very thing. Palestinian Christians and Muslims alike suffer from Israel’s repressive measures for the simple fact that they are not Jewish. If this does not symbolize intolerance, I don’t know what would.



May 7, 2009:
The Pope Skips Gaza: "I was in prison and you visited me not"

 By James M. Wall           
A friend writes from Bethlehem:  
His Holiness will arrive in Jordan at the end of this week, then cross the river to Israel-Palestine and spend a few more days here.
He will not visit Gaza, sadly.
It would have been a huge encouragement for the people of the region especially the Christians in Gaza, and provided a good "media op" to highlight the devastation and on-going problems inside the prison that is Gaza.     
To be fair to Pope Benedict XVI, he does not have total control over his May 8-14 travel itinerary which begins in Amman, where he plans to visit a mosque. From Jordan, the Pope will cross the Jordan River into the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel.
On the Israeli side of the river he will be met by Israeli President Shimon Peres, who will serve as his constant companion and guide before he returns to Rome.
My Bethlehem friend reports that the 82-year-old Pontiff's visit has provided some surface improvements for the town where Jesus was born.
Bethlehem has never looked so good! The municipality has received funding to spruce up the city. New street lamps have been installed that have not worked since the beginning of the Intifada in 2002.  Storefronts all along Manger Street have had the posters of [Palestinian] martyrs removed and have been repainted. The curbs have been painted with black and white or red and white striping denoting parking or no parking areas (not that anyone pays attention to that!)
On the day the pope comes no one will be allowed out on the streets anyway. This will be purely a media event. The local police will once again be posted on the roofs of buildings and line the streets with weapons aimed high searching for anyone who dares to even look out their windows.
Unfortunately the local Christians to whom the pope, or "al Baba" as he is referred to here, will not be allowed to participate in the events. Dignitaries, politicians, clerical hierarchy and even Jewish ministers of state will accompany the pope, but for "security" reasons the local Christians will be sidelined.
On his pilgrimage the Pope will visit the D'heisha Refugee Camp in Bethlehem and, of course, he will pay a ceremonial visit to the Church of the Nativity. Word from a source in Jerusalem is that "the Israelis moved  the refugee camp visit from the Aida Camp to D'heisha, because they don't want the Wall and a Guard tower to be in the tv images that get transmitted."
But the Pope will not visit Gaza, easily the world's largest refugee camp, now under the control of Hamas, where Gaza officials would no doubt have been more than delighted to welcome the Pope.
In Gaza he not only would have seen the aftermath of Israel's most recent 22-day invasion, and experienced the suffering of a people confined behind prison walls, but Hamas officials could have taken him to the site in Gaza where Samson rebelled against his captors by pulling down the walls of the temple of Dagon (Judges 13-16).
The Pope's visit to Bethlehem will require him to enter and depart the city through an oppressive checkpoint used by all residents and visitors, even Popes. Unless that is, Israeli authorities decide to open the city's ancient entrance gate, closed since the Israeli "security" wall was built surrounding the town where Jesus was born. The gate normally swings opens only for two Easter processionals.
However the Pope enters the city,  he will not escape another ugly reality:  At intervals along the wall are those carefully placed guard towers, where armed soldiers keep watch over the inhabitants, by night, and by day.
Donald Macintyre describes what else the Pope will not see when he enters and leaves Bethlehem.
It is 5:45 am, just a few minutes before sunrise, when the bottleneck at the entrance to the narrow, fenced-in checkpoint path in Bethlehem is at its worst. There is scuffling when the tempers of the men, many of whom have been up since 3am, begin to fray as they compete to squeeze into the alley to queue for a lengthy series of Israeli security checks of their IDs, work permits, and biometric palm prints. . . .
Though he will enter the nativity city through the wall at this same Gilo checkpoint during his five-day trip to the Holy Land next week, this is a scene that Pope Benedict will not see. By the time he arrives around 8am, the thousands of workers will have long gone; the food vendors will have packed up their barrows, along with the coffee urns, sesame loaves and tins of tuna - up to 75p cheaper than in Israel - that the men sometimes stop to buy for lunch. . . .
At the time of the last Papal visit in 2000, there were around 140,000 West Bankers working in Jerusalem. But since the beginning of the second intifada only 26,000 have permits to do so.
The National Catholic Reporter's John L. Allen Jr. is travelling on the papal plane to cover Benedict XVI's visit. Before leaving for Rome this week, he wrote in his pre-trip analysis that Benedict's trip
represents the first opportunity to "road test" the prospects for collaboration between the United States and the Vatican with regard to a critical shared objective - peace in the Middle East. That's an especially live prospect given the likelihood that Benedict and Obama will meet in person shortly afterwards, on the occasion of the G-8 summit in Italy in July.
This storyline may be particularly beguiling in view of a notable coincidence: Benedict's trip to the Holy Land wraps up on May 15, just two days before Obama's much-ballyhooed May 17 commencement address at the University of Notre Dame.


What Jesus Might Tell the Pope Regarding Gaza

Pope Benedict announced that he would visit the Holy Land this May to pray "for the precious gift of unity and peace for the Middle East and for all of humanity," but he would not be going to Gaza.

Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Vatican custodian of the holy sites stated, "This visit is aimed first and foremost at encouraging them to remain in this country."

Prayer without action is hypocrisy and faith without works is dead.

In November 2006, Father Manuel Mussalem, Pastor of Gaza's only Catholic Church of 200 faithful- who look to the Pope to speak for Jesus to them- penned on their behalf:

"Gaza cannot sleep! The people are suffering unbelievably. They are hungry, thirsty, have no electricity or clean water. They are suffering constant bombardments and sonic booms from low flying aircraft. They need food: bread and water. Children and babies are hungry...people have no money to buy food. The price of food has doubled and tripled due to the situation. We cannot drink water from the ground here as it is salty and not hygienic. People must buy water to drink. They have no income, no opportunities to get food and water from outside and no opportunities to secure money inside of Gaza. They have no hope.

"Without electricity children are afraid. No light at night. No oil or candles...Thirsty children are crying, afraid and desperate...Many children have been violently thrown from their beds at night from the sonic booms. Many arms and legs have been broken. These planes fly low over Gaza and then reach the speed of sound. This shakes the ground and creates shock waves like an earthquake that causes people to be thrown from their bed. I, myself weigh 120 kilos and was almost thrown from my bed due to the shock wave produced by a low flying jet that made a sonic boom.

"Gaza cannot sleep...the cries of hungry children, the sullen faces of broken men and women who are just sitting in their hungry emptiness with no light, no hope, and no love. These actions are War Crimes!"

Out of the 1.5 million humans in Gaza no more than 2,500 are members of Christian denominations. Their exodus is directly attributed to the ongoing occupation which has reduced the Christian population of the Holy Land from 20% of the total to less than 1.3% since 1947.

Rania Mikhail, 32, a student of English at the Holy Family School said, "We are happy that he is coming to Palestine, but what can he do for us?  We want him to do something for Gaza, not only for the Christians, but also for the Muslims who are living in this prison. We would have liked him to come to Gaza since no one pays attention to what happens to us." [1]

Bassam Shahtoot, a member of the Nazareth Roman Catholic parish council, said: "We want the pope to come, but the timing is problematic because of the Gaza war where many Palestinians were killed. Some people are using this visit politically to polish Israel's image." [Ibid]

Jesus laid down the law to Christians in the Sermon on the Mount with the biblical injunctions to go visit the prisoners, comfort the weary, care for the ill and shelter the widow and orphan for what ever one does or does not do unto any other; they do it or not unto the Lord.

Hebrew Prophet's such as Amos sounded calls for justice and shone lights upon hypocrisy in high places where abuses of power manipulated, controlled and destroyed those without defense.

The prophets attempted to awaken the people to God's deep passion for justice in society and Amos aimed his accusations at the elite of Israel-most especially the teachers of the law:

"I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs!  I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!" - Amos 5:21-24

When Jesus threw the money changers out of the Temple, he was overthrowing the established order of buying one's way to God's heart.

Two thousand years ago the Cross had NO symbolic religious meaning and was not a piece of jewelry. When Jesus said: "Pick up your cross and follow me," everyone back then understood he was issuing a POLITICAL statement, for the main roads in Jerusalem were lined with crucified agitators, rebels, dissidents and any others who disturbed the status quo of the Roman Occupying Forces.

The term Christianity was not coined until three decades after Christ walked the earth. Until the day of Paul, followers of Christ were called members of The Way; the way being what he taught!

Christ was never a Christian, but he was a social justice, radical revolutionary Palestinian devout Jewish road warrior who rose up [intifada in Arabic] for he challenged the job security of the Temple authorities by teaching the people they did NOT need to pay the priests for ritual baths or sacrificing livestock to be OK with God; for God already LOVED them just as they were: sinners, poor, diseased, outcasts, widows, orphans, refugees and prisoners all living under Roman Military Occupation.

What got Jesus crucified was disturbing the status quo of the Roman Occupying Forces of his time, by teaching the subversive concept that Caesar only had power because God allowed it and that God preferred the humble sinner, the poor, diseased, outcasts, widows, orphans, refugees and prisoners all living under Roman Occupation above the elite and arrogant!

Clement, Tertillian, Polycarp and every other early Church Father taught that violence was a contradiction of what Christ was all about. There have always been those Christians who spoke out against this corruption of scripture and they have been ignored, reviled, rejected, mocked, persecuted and maligned throughout time. There have always been Christians who have never abandoned the true teachings, such as the Quakers, Mennonites, some Catholics and Protestants who have been faithful witnesses to Christ by denouncing violence and caring for the poor.

There have also been Jews, Muslims, atheists, anarchists, secularists, rebels and revolutionaries who have lived lives that embody Christ; who have in fact done what Jesus actually taught-to be nonviolent, forgiving and love all of one's neighbors/every being-a most revolutionary concept indeed-and one too few who claim to be Christian ever achieve.

Every individual Christian is but one cell in the cosmic Body of Christ. "So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." -Romans 12:4

"Its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part [of The Body] suffers, every part suffers with it."-1 Corinthians 12:25-26

The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and all the prophets said, "You will recognize the believers in their having Mercy for one another, and in their Love for one another, and in their Kindness towards one another; like the body, when one member of it hurts, the entire body hurts."

Might the Pope have a heart that pulls him to go to Gaza with ears to hear and eyes to see Jesus in all the people suffering there-be they Christian, Muslim or Jew-for the Bible tells us Jesus loves them all- and we Christians are to too!

Learn more and sign the petition to the Pope to go to Gaza:

Please view and listen to
 Garth Hewitt - From The Broken Heart Of Gaza (Father Musallam's Letter)





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