A Muddled Minefield of Symbolism and Spin

Pope Francis visited a memorial to Israeli terror victims. Unlike AP, Reuters managed to dodge using the word “terror” in a headline by making the story about the pontiff “navigating a minefield of symbols.”

Unfortunately, Reuters has to navigate the same minefield, and it blundered it’s way through the meaning of the Temple Mount and Western Wall to Jews. If the first paragraph lacks nuance, the second paragraph fails the the basic fact-checking.

Pope Francis start the last leg of his three-day tour of the Middle East, at the golden-topped Dome of the Rock, taking off his shoes before walking into the shrine from which Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammad climbed to heaven.

Afterwards, he went to pray at the adjacent Western Wall, one the Jews’ most revered shrines and a sole remnant of their sacred Second Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

The Temple Mount is where the first and second Jewish temples stood — on or about the spot where the Dome of the Rock is. It is the holiest spot in Judaism. The Western Wall was a retaining wall built around the Temple Mount. It was structurally independent of the Temple.

Ofir Gendelman

That said, the issue of the pope’s visit being heavy in symbolism and spin, is unfortunately, a legitimate angle. Israeli officials say the PA put heavy pressure on the Vatican for Pope Francis’ “impromptu” prayer visit by the security barrier.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Oded Ben-Hur, a diplomatic adviser to the Knesset and a former Israeli ambassador to the Vatican, said Israeli diplomatic officials were unhappy the Palestinians had “used the pope as a political tool” by taking him to the security barrier.

See also Tom Gross and Matthew Kalman for their takes on papal propaganda poker. Breaking with the itinerary to pay respect to terror victims is a kind and meaningful gesture that Israelis should appreciate. But don’t think for a minute that today’s photos will “balance out” yesterday’s images of Francis praying at the security barrier.

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