These days, maybe more than ever, it's easy to be misled by the pronouncements of leaders. The herd mentality that is so characteristic of global communication harbors within an insult to the basic intelligence of thinking man. Take for example Pope Francis I 's visit to the State of Israel. The Pope's invitation to the president of Israel, Shimon Peres, and the leader of the Palestinian authority, Abu Mazen, to a joint prayer for peace at the Vatican in Rome, is a much welcomed initiative. But what good is this initiative and how will the prayer help? As is usual, the media people covering the papal visit immediately highlighted the initiative. However, beyond its pronouncement and beyond its taking place, is there any real significance? I don't think so.
I don't think there's anyone who is not aware of the church's activity in that terrible period of modern world history, the period of Nazi rule. Other periods preceded this period which were no less dismal. But the behavior of the Holy See at the time of the Holocaust should raise a red flag to all of humanity. I am absolutely certain that the Vatican has dark secrets from that period (and possibly from others) locked up in its recesses. And the time has come to bring everything to light, to repent, and to ask forgiveness.
I don't demand this as a Jewish Israeli but as a human being living among other human beings. If the Holy See wants to bring the three monotheistic religions together and strive for world peace, it must realize that gestures towards leaders and populistic declarations will not suffice. It must also understand the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which has a dramatic influence on the Middle East and on world order generally.
In Israel there is currently a president who holds his position as if it were a holy seat. It is an official position but is symbolic and has no political mandate. Moreover, he will soon be replaced. The Holy See should have invited the Israeli prime minister to the Vatican, since he is the chosen leader and he currently has the privilege to navigate and decide on the future of the Jewish state.
At the Palestinian Authority there is seated an old man on a wobbly chair, who, is generally believed not to be in control of the Palestinian street and has almost no influence over his opponents. It's quite possible that the Holy See would have done better to invite to prayer these leaders opponents, the radical Muslim fundamentalists.
So this trinity of seats is not holy and we need to express our opinions about it. If the Holy See wants to bring about world peace I would suggest it address us, the ordinary citizens, the people of letters, and invite a group of writers from all the enlightened nations and together with them make pronouncements but also forge a new and practical path. I would even invite it to join the organization that I started, "Authors without Borders". This is an organization that has taken upon itself the task of achieving through the written word peace and fraternity among human beings from all the countries of the planet.
I appreciate the fact that the pope coined the expression "never again" during his speech in Jerusalem at "Yad Vashem" (the Israel national memorial to the victims of the holocaust). But even while he spoke, there are still crimes against humanity being committed. We still continue to live in a reign of terror and the world goes on turning as usual without an appropriate response. So a pronouncement like the aforementioned, if it is not made material, is worthless.
Picture me standing on a podium every Sunday delivering a sermon to you or to some billion believers, to join hands and stop by force every harmful act against humanity and every attempt at an act of terror. I'm sure you'd all do this. We'd build a human chain that would bring the whole world to a better place.
In the intoxicating and inebriating political reality of the Middle East, many leaders are affected by the "Jerusalem syndrome" or the "holy land syndrome". Or else, they fall prey to cunning propagandists who distort history and reality. And they generally succeed when it comes to the Palestinians.
Unfortunately, the leaders of my country are party to this misleading spectacle. If you want real peace, extend both hands. If you get slapped in the face, don't turn the other cheek. Slap back, and then extend both hands. That's they way you do it in the Middle East. Stop giving elevated speeches, do simple acts.
The simple act the pope could have performed to lead to the process of reconciliation would have been to cross on foot the wall separating the Palestinian from the Israeli side- it's only a few meters- instead of getting on a helicopter to go to the main airport of the state of Israel by air.
Another simple act would have been to go by foot from the temple mount, where the El Aqsa mosque is located, right into the Western Wall plaza or the other way around, instead of making the trip by car.
I realize, of course, that we're talking about simple acts that have dramatic political repercussions. But hasn't the time really come to stop all the religious, sectarian, ethnic and political conflicts and to start building a planet that is global and common to all of us. Don't dismiss me as utopian, try and see with me beyond the rainbow, beyond the horizon. What are we humans in for in another one hundred years, another thousand years? Will we shed each others' blood forever?
For some reason, whenever I think about this historic visit, I feel certain that fifteen minutes after the pope's plane leaves Israeli airspace, the Middle East will burn with yet another act of terror. The problem today is that terror no longer has any boundaries. The pope's plane will pass through the airspace of the countries of Europe, where the danger of terror has also become a daily affair.
If I had the chance, or alternatively, if the pope were to invite me to the Vatican and accept my advice, I would build in St. Peter's Square a monument consisting of six million orphaned seats. I'd build it high enough to see anywhere in the Vatican, in Rome and in all of Europe. This monument would serve as a memorial to the six million believers that were murdered. Six million human beings who should have been sitting on those seats listening to the speeches, talk and music. Every Sunday this monument would serve as silent testimony to the horrors that man, not God, visits upon other men, and as lasting proof that prayer to God can not take the place of the deeds of men, simple deeds that will uproot once and for all the evil that exists in many people in this world of ours, simple deeds that will get us once and for all the peace and quiet that we all so desperately desire.