The Swap That Wasn't

What was originally heralded as a soon-to-be historic visit by President Moshe Katsav to Vatican City, followed by international and Catholic press reports of an historic swap giving control of the Mt. Zion tomb of David to the Vatican, ended up being a "friendly" discussion about tax issues? (Don't believe it.)

Ellen W. Horowitz

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The Historic Moment

What was originally heralded as a soon-to-be historic visit by President Moshe Katsav to Vatican City, followed by international and Catholic press reports of an historic swap giving control of the Mt. Zion tomb of David to the Vatican, ended up being a "friendly" discussion about tax issues? (Don't believe it.)

The Swap We Can Live With

A swap of sorts did take place between the Pope and President Moshe Katsav.

A copy of an important 40-year-old Papal paper, condemning anti-Semitism and declaring that not all Jews are responsible for killing Christianity's lord, was exchanged for a few books and some photos of an ancient church - located on the grounds of a maximum security prison - that sits on the site of biblical Armageddon (talk about high-risk real estate).

I can live with those types of gestures. No disappointment here.

But there are those who must be broken-hearted.

The Disappointed Ones

The Vatican: They anticipated that the draft for the Mt. Zion swap would be signed by Katsav on this trip (to view what we believe to be the draft copy, received by the Mt. Zion-based Diaspora Yeshiva, go to

The Patriarch Of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah: A Palestinian who can be heard in an October 12th audio clip on Radio Vatican proclaiming that a draft agreement has been drawn up, and that the Vatican awaits Israel's "fine gesture." (

The Press: Richard Owen, of the London Times, who reported on the swap deal. The London Times, which confirmed that their sources for the story were in the Vatican. Signor Orazio Petrosillo, Vatican correspondent of Il Messaggero, who reported the swap as a fait accompli with his headline "The Room of the Last Supper to Return to the Friars". (

It's interesting to note that a letter from the Times to me does not include mention of the swap, but the original Times article does, and carries the headline: "Vatican offers swap deal to regain site of Last Supper". (,,13509-1823149,00.html.)

Franciscan Father David M. Jaeger: a spokesman for the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, who was involved in the negotiations that produced the "fundamental agreement" of 1993, told the National Catholic Reporter back in 2003 that "restitution" of the Cenacle (the room where Jesus is said to have conducted the "Last Supper") "would make the climate a lot more favorable for the rest of the negotiations." When asked in a recent interview what he expected from President Katsav's visit, Jaeger replied: "That the church in Caesarea will be rebuilt. That the Convent of St. Anthony [a part of Hebrew University] will finally be returned fully to the Franciscan Sisters. Most of all, that the present negotiations will be accelerated with a view to an early conclusion, in accordance with the Fundamental Agreement. Then I will know that the great hopes we had in 1993 were truly justified." (

Papal Knight Rabbi David Rosen: He is inter-religious affairs director for the American Jewish Committee (AJC), who endorsed Gary Krupp and Pave the Way Foundation's "efforts to galvanize Israeli compliance with its commitments made in the Fundamental Agreement and to demonstrate gestures of goodwill to the Vatican...." (

Jewish Papal Knight Gary Krupp: He is founder of the Pave the Way Foundation, who publicly and resonantly announced in various church publications his intentions "to urge upon the Israelis... the return of the Shrine of the Cenacle." (

The Friars (as in Franciscan): They have a site that links directly from Pave the Way Foundation's homepage picture of the Cenacle (the "Last Supper" room), espousing replacement theology and declaring: "The jewish temple of Sion had passed away but the new Christian Sion had arisen" and that the "whole area of Christian Sion has been in the hands of the jewish authorities since 1948...." (

It would appear that the Friars are distressed that the Jews are very much alive, well, living in Israel and studying Torah on Mt. Zion.

David Bartholdy: This man and his activities requires further investigation. He appears to have big plans for a Christian Mt. Zion, and we don't like his tone. See his letter to the Diaspora Yeshiva at

Continuing Efforts

The church will continue their efforts to gain control of Mt. Zion and other areas in Eretz Yisrael, so we must continue our efforts to hold on to and develop the area.


After a full month of research and campaigning on this issue, I can only conclude that Israel and its leaders are indeed under immense pressure from all directions. Activism is an essential component in reminding our leaders and all Jews of who they are and where they are standing. What I find profoundly tragic is the role that certain Diaspora Jews and Jewish organizations play in jeopardizing their people, heritage and eternal inheritance.

Thank you to all of the many activists who rallied to the cause and protested via articles, radio, cyberspace, email, letter, fax, phone, vigil and visits to the Diaspora Yeshiva. We're far away from victory on this issue, but, as MK Rabbi Benny Elon stated, eliciting a denial from President Katsav's office was a "major achievement, and was the result of public pressure."

I feel especially grateful for having the opportunity to work with the following team of outstanding individuals both in Israel and the Diaspora: Shelomo Alfassa, Yisrael Medad, Batya Medad, Sharon Katz, Barbara Taverna and Michelle Nevada.

We will will continue this campaign. For the sake of Mt. Zion (and all of Eretz Yisrael) we will not be silent!

Notes and Further Reading

The 1993 Fundamental Agreement (which Rabbi Rosen of AJC wants Israel to comply with) is as old, obsolete and problematic as the Oslo agreements. For just a glimpse of some of the problems with interpretations inherent in that agreement read:

"The Vatican's Betrayal of Israel" by Don Kenner, in Front Page Magazine.

For a look at the full accords see Pay attention to article10.

US Presidential Pressure (what would we do without Uncle Sam?) - excerpts from must -read article in Haaretz, "Bush appeal to Sharon gives impetus to Israel-Vatican negotiations":
The foot-dragging ended only after U.S. President George W. Bush broached the subject with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at their last meeting. According to one source, Bush even raised the issue twice... "Why can't you complete the negotiations?" Bush reportedly asked, after which Sharon ordered that the issue be handled urgently... Church leader David Yaeger said... that the Israeli government only wakes up when it comes under pressure from the Americans.