Israel Defends Against Vatican
November, 28, 1999

Dear Friends,

please read my comments after you read the news, thanks,

Fr. Labib Kobti

Subj:  AP: Israel Defends Against Vatican
Date: 11/28/99 3:24:37 PM Pacific Standard Time

  Israel Defends Against Vatican

   By DINA KRAFT Associated Press Writer

   JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel on Sunday disputed the sincerity of Vatican
   accusations that the Jewish state was to blame for sowing
   Christian-Muslim tensions in Nazareth, the town of Jesus' boyhood.

   A Foreign Ministry official said the Vatican was fully aware that
   Islamic extremists -- not Israel -- were to blame for exacerbating
   relations with local Christians.

   ``They know very well the origin of the crisis,'' Ariel Kenet, head of
   the Foreign Ministry's Religions Department said at a news conference.

   The Vatican has sharply reprimanded Israel for allowing the
   construction of a mosque near the Basilica of the Annunciation in
   Nazareth, which marks the spot where tradition says the Angel Gabriel
   told Mary she would give birth to Jesus.

   Thousands of Muslims attended the celebratory unveiling of the
   cornerstone for the mosque last week on one-third of a plot that had
   originally been earmarked by Nazareth's Christian mayor as a plaza for
   millennium tourists. An Israeli-brokered compromise designated the
   rest of the plot for the plaza.

   Major Christian churches in the Holy Land shut their doors for two
   days in protest.

   Last week, the Vatican squarely blamed Israel, accusing it of
   ``creating the basis for instigating division.''

   Kenet read from what he identified as a Vatican background paper on
   Nazareth written two weeks ago as an indication that the Holy See does
   not view Israel as sparking the dispute.

   ``Christian-Muslim relations have been generally good at many levels
   in Israel. Over the past couple of years there has been a rise of
   anti-Christian activity on the part of Islamic extremists throughout
   the region,'' Kenet said, quoting from the paper.

   The issue has created the most serious strain between Israel and the
   Vatican since the two established diplomatic relations in 1994.
   However, there were no indications that the Holy See would call off
   Pope John Paul II's planned March visit to Israel and the Palestinian

   In Rome, Vatican spokesman Rev. Ciro Benedettini declined to address
   Israel's claim, saying, ``we have all the interest in calming'' the

   Kenet said the situation in Nazareth had become untenable and the
   government had no other option but to help broker a solution.

   He noted that the protest tent set up by Muslims in Nazareth on the
   site had made it difficult for Christian pilgrims to reach the Church
   of the Annunciation, and with a flood of tourists expected in the
   millennium, the government had urgently sought a resolution to the

   ``The government is unequivocally committed to the security of the
   Christian population (of Israel),'' Kenet said, ``and will assure the
   safety of pilgrims.''


I am really afraid of how the Israeli government is trying to deal with this matter and putting the blame on the Vatican and the Islamists. I wonder if in the future there will be a fake problem, just built before the visit of the Pope to the Holy Land between the Catholic Church and the Palestinian Muslims.

I pray and I hope not.

The Vatican have accepted to have not a mosque but a huge  Islamic Cultural Center in Rome, the capital of Catholicism, and a Cardinal was represnting the Pope and the first stone. The issue is not a mosque in Nazareth.

In fact, dear friend I have a founded fears:

Nazareth is in Israel. It is under Israeli law.

Nazareth was a mere Christian City in the past. The city where important things happened for the Christian faith: the Annunciation-Incarnation of Jesus, the city of Mary and Joseph and where Jesus had his boyhood until the age of 30.

In Nazareth there is nothing very important for the Jews and the Muslims.

Israeli government (Netanyaho one) was the one who presented to an Israeli court the case of the spot in front of the Church of the Basilica of the Annunciation where the Islamists have put the tent and started to pray. Not all the Muslims where supporting the presence of the tent, or the idea of building a mosque there.

An Israeli court decided that the Islamists has no right on that spot and they have to remove the tents.

An Israeli government (Barak one) did not respect the decision of the Israeli court and decided to give to the Islamists the right to build a mosque and promised $100.000 to them for the building of the mosque.

Israeli parties during the elections where coming, (when the government did not do anything to resolve the problem for about two years, in fact, the mosque dispute began in December 1997) to ask for votes from the Muslims who form the majority today Nazareth (Nazareth is 50,000 Muslims and 22,000 Christians), giving them all kinds of promises to get their votes.

Where is the role of the Local Christians or the Vatican on the above? Nothing. The problem was between the Major of the city of Nazareth and the Israeli government then.

It is curious to see how the news wants to blame the Vatican : "A Foreign Ministry official said the Vatican was fully aware that Islamic extremists -- not Israel -- were to blame for exacerbating relations with local Christians."

If really the Islamic extermists are to blame, as it is said, and if there is any such a thing, why to Israeli government waited for so long to act? Do they support extremism?

Why the Israeli govenement did not defend the Christians when they were attacked in Easter 1998?

Why the Israeli Government is honoring the extremists and ignoring the moderate Muslims?

Why Israel did not respect the good relations between the moderate Palestinian Muslims and Christians for decades in Nazareth the Arab Capital of the Palestinians of 1948?

Blaming the Vatican or the Local Christians or the Muslims extremists is not serving the cause of the TRUTH.

The Vatican is not trying in any way to be anti-Muslim, anti-mosque, anti-Israeli, anti-Semite, anti or pro anybody....the Vatican like the Local Christians of the Holy Land have asked that one of the most important shrines of the Christian faith be respected and honored by the people of the Holy Land. Is it asking too much? What is the problem if they build a mosque some where else or an interfaith center instead? Is it asking again too much?

In fact, the moderates Muslims of Israel and the PA, Jordan have responded positively and have stood beside their boodbrothers and sisters the Arab Christians of the Holy Land (Saudi Arabia have also presented it good offices to resolve the problem), when the Israelis who are now blaming the Islamic extremists have sided with them.

Now the Israelis will start again their claims over the whole Jerusalem, and as Ashrawi have said ``The Israelis are trying to show that the Palestinians cannot be entrusted with the holy sites (in Jerusalem) and "potray the palestinians as a people troubled by sectarianism" and the need of Israel to be the protector of these or those or mediator and  police between the bloodbrothers.

Israel is telling the Vatican you have nothing to do with the Holy Places, the Local Christians have nothing to do with the Holy Palces, we are the only force on the ground that can create harmony or not, protects the pilgrims, defend the rights of these or those.....Jerusalem is ours (they are trying to Judecizes all Jerusalem, and both Muslisms and Christians will become a minority under our law and rules (Israeli)...

WHEN at the same time they are playing the last card of the negotitians of the final status of Jerusalem, borders,  settlements, refugees.... I am not a prophet, but things are not promising...

I call on all my Bloodbrothers and sisters the Palestinian Muslims and of the Middle East and all our friends to please, stand with PALESTINE.

The real losers will be Palestine and the Palestinians, if really a kind of cold war will start between the boodbrothers and sisters the Muslims and Christians.

Please, stand with the TRUTH, look to the future of our children.

And again:

What is more important the harmony between Arab Muslims and Christians or a building of a mosque or a church?

What is more important for us as Arab Christians and Muslims, our future or our present desires? Our future generation or our present prestige?

What is more important for us to stop the Israeli occupation that have destroyed hundreds of our villages, mosques and churches in 1948, 1967 and is continuing to do it today with more settlements here and there or to fuel violence between bloodbrothers for the pleasure of the occupier?

What is more important for us to build a mosque beside a Church and make the minaret higher than the church bell tower or to respect the Christian presence?

PLEASE, think and pray with me for harmony and love in the Holy Land and in the Middle East between Muslims and Christians.

Fr. Labib Kobti