Muslim and Jewish protesters are planning to disrupt the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Israel next month.
Residents of the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City are planning a demonstration against the closure of the area around the Western Wall for 12 hours during the visit. Protesters have vowed to flock to the Wall and remain there for the duration of the stay.
“If a Chief Rabbi was to visit the Vatican, they wouldn’t close the place,” said Gabi Sheinin, a local resident, “and we expect the same attitude in the Pope’s visit to the holiest place of the Jewish people. Who ever wants to banish Jews from the Wall will have to drag us out.”
The Islamic Movement, one of the most powerful Arab organisations in Israel also objects to his visit to the Western Wall, which it sees as part of the Muslim mosque on the Temple Mount. An official of the Islamic Movement said this week that “the Pope’s words against Muhammad are a crime and if he is so sensitive towards Jewish feelings over the Holocaust, he should be sensitive also to the Holocaust of the 21st century, the Holocaust in Gaza.”
The Islamic Movement will also boycott the Pope’s visit to Nazareth in northern Israel “because of his statements against the Prophet Mohammed and his decision not to visit the Gaza Strip”. In a lecture in 2006, the Pope quoted a Byzantine emperor who had said, “show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”.