Israel’s Chief Sephardi Rabbi, the Rishon Letzion Rabbi Shlomo Amar, wore an unusual adornment at his meeting with the Pope in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
Rabbi Amar met several days ago with one of his predecessors, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, and discussed with him his feelings of discomfort about his upcoming meeting with the Pope – because of the large golden cross he wears on his chest.
Rabbi Amar generally wears, as did all his predecessors in his position of Rishon LeTzion (The First of Zion), a black cloak adorned with a broad collar and band of silver. This time, Rabbi Yosef advised Rabbi Amar to add a golden adornment of his own: a golden-plated ornament depicting the Tablets of the Law, topped with a crown.
Rabbi Amar took the advice, and the golden Tablets can clearly be seen in the photos of the rabbis’ meeting.
The meeting took place at the titular headquarters of the Chief Rabbinate, Heichal Shlomo in Jerusalem. Rabbi Amar also made sure to hold and consult a book of Torah law during the meeting and follow-up speeches.
It should be noted that Rabbi Amar’s speech concentrated on the wondrous return of the Jewish People to their homeland, still loyal to their Torah, after nearly 2,000 years of exile. His Ashkenazi counterpart, Rabbi Yona Metzger, made a similar point, but also directed specific demands at the Pope. Rabbi Metzger asked that the Catholic Church help identify Jews given over as children to Christian families during the Holocaust, and set aside one day a year to speak out not only against anti-Semitism, but also in favor of the Jewish people. He also thanked the Pope for stopping missionary activity against the Jews.
A previous pontiff, Pope Paul VI, visited Israel in 1964, but refused to come to Jerusalem – and in response, then-Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Nissim refused to meet him at all.