Israel’s attempts to prevent a situation in which the pope would be photographed near the security barrier failed Wednesday, as the pope spoke at the Aida refugee neighborhood and drove past a section of the security wall in his popemobile. In what is seen as “a major publicity coup” for the PA, Benedict XVI was photographed near the security barrier which Israel built after hundreds of its civilians were massacred by suicide bombers who crossed over from the PA.
As the pope visited a school and shook the hands of children, organizers released 61 black balloons into the air, symbolizing the 61 years since Israel was established.
Pope speaks with security barrier as backdrop (Israel News photo: Flash 90).
Aftermath of a bus bombing in Jerusalem, 2006 (Israel News photo: Flash 90).
"Towering over us, as we gather here this afternoon, is a stark reminder of the stalemate that relations between Israelis and Palestinians seem to have reached - the wall," the pope then said in a speech. “In a world where more and more borders are being opened up – to trade, to travel, to movement of peoples, to cultural exchanges – it is tragic to see walls still being erected. How we long to see the fruits of the much more difficult task of building peace! How earnestly we pray for an end to the hostilities that have caused this wall to be built!”
"My visit to the Aida refugee camp this afternoon gives me a welcome opportunity to express my solidarity with all the homeless Palestinians who long to be able to return to their birthplace, or to live permanently in a homeland of their own," Benedict XVI added. "To all the officials of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency who care for the refugees, I express the appreciation felt by countless men and women all over the world for the work that is done here and in other camps throughout the region."
While it is an open secret that UNRWA is dominated by terrorists, the pope did not mention this.
“On both sides of the wall, great courage is needed if fear and mistrust is to be overcome, if the urge to retaliate for loss or injury is to be resisted,” he said, adding that “There has to be a willingness to take bold and imaginative initiatives towards reconciliation: if each insists on prior concessions from the other, the result can only be stalemate.”
Local Arabs were well aware of the importance of a photo opportunity near the wall and made extensive preparations for making the most of the papal visit, as can be seen in this video.
Earlier in the day, the pope prayed in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.