Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

15 Adar II 5760 - March 22, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Chareidi Community Not Focusing on Pope's Visit

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

While foreign media news reports appear to indicate that the chareidi community is "critical" of the pope's visit, the truth is that it is far more likely to be apathetic, according to representatives of Am Echad. The group held a press conference to explain their attitude toward the head of the Roman Catholic Church.

"The main body [of the chareidi community] is not concerned with the visit," said Rabbi Aharon Feldman, head of the Be'er Hatorah Yeshiva in Jerusalem. "They are not like secular Jews who find their Jewish identification with what non-Jews think of them."

Rav Feldman did indicate there were elements of the visit with which chareidim might take offense, but he said there was unlikely to be any great outcry. For example, he said, the Kosel Hama'arovi is a synagogue, and as such he would prefer the pope not to wear his cross there.

"It would be offensive for him to come to the Kosel with the cross," Rav Feldman said. However, he added that no request was made to ask the pope to remove it, and if he did not do so there would be no protests.

Rav Feldman said that in his view there was no point in any theological discussion between Jews and Christians, and he believed that in their meeting, the pope and the two chief rabbis would be more likely to discuss how to reduce antisemitism and injustice in the world.

He added that while he and his colleagues were happy about the present pope's efforts to reduce anti-Jewish feelings among Catholics, they saw little significance in such papal statements as referring to the Jews as "our elder brothers."

"We, all mankind, are brothers. We are all equal brothers," Rav Feldman said.

United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Avraham Ravitz told the assembled journalists that he had little fear that the pope's visit would be an occasion for missionary activities. In any case, he added, it was the Protestants who were more active in this respect in recent years, although it is possible that a few extreme Catholics would feel called upon to use the visit to try to convert Jews.

"If you would ask me what the pope should say, it would be that each man should live according to his faith," Rabbi Ravitz said.

As to how the Chief Rabbis should treat the visit, Rabbi Ravitz said that from the point of view of the chareidi community, it appeared as if Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Eliahu Bakshi-Doron were overly eager. They "too much wanted such a meeting to take place," he said.

At the same time, he added that it was true that their role was to reduce antisemitism in the world.

As for chareidi objections to the massive chillul Shabbos that would take place because of the pope's visit, Rabbi Ravitz said that he and his colleagues understood that for health reasons it was impossible for the pope to stay overnight in Nazareth, where he is saying mass next Saturday.

On the other hand, he also noted that when he had brought up the subject with Vatican officials, they told him that the issue had not been raised by the Israeli government.

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