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The Pope in the Holy Land

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Pope Benedict XVI is visiting Israel this week, after spending three days in Jordan. On the agenda: a visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial; touring the Temple Mount and the Western Wall; leading masses in Bethlehem and Nazareth;  and talking shop – i.e. peace-achieving strategies – with Israeli and Palestinian politicians. As commentators throughout the world have noted, the Pope’s also on a mission of improving his image among Jews and Muslims.

In the past six months, Vatican has made several bad PR moves when it comes to relations with Jews, including almost welcoming a Holocaust-denying bishop back into the fold. This trip goes a long way to mend relations, even if the Pope’s plan for peace is diametrically opposed to the new Israeli government’s stance on giving land for peace.

Follow the Pope’s visit to Israel:

Israeli President Shimon Peres found a way to showcase Israel’s technological achievements and please the Pope. Peres gave Benedict the text of the Jewish Bible in vowelled Hebrew inscribed on a nanotechnology particle about the size of a grain of sand.

In a speech at Yad Vashem Monday afternoon, Benedict stressed prohibition against the evil of Holocaust denying and said that “the Catholic Church feels deep compassion for the victims remembered here." The speech disappointed Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel and the chair of Yad Vashem Council because Benedict did not expressly condemn the perpetrators of the Holocaust, writes The Jerusalem Post.

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched a special Web site to track the Pope’s visit. The site includes video recordings of speeches and ceremonies as well as detailed itineraries and stories about the visit.

The JTA’s Dina Kraft explores Israel’s small minority of Arab Christians.

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