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Welcome to Bethlehem, Pope Francis — now shut down the checkpoint for 3 days


Three images by Tom Suarez from Bethlehem show the fanfare and effect of the Pope’s visit this weekend:



Below is a notice that the main Bethlehem checkpoint, called Rachel’s Crossing, will be closed. I asked Suarez about the laughable spelling. He said, “It is authentic. It is IN the Bethlehem checkpoint. It is the official notice.”

Notice of checkpoint closure for Pope's visit

Notice of checkpoint closure for Pope’s visit

Then he sent along this wider shot to show the notice:

Bethlehem checkpoint

Bethlehem checkpoint

Now here is a letter from Sydney Levy of Jewish Voice for Peace on the Pope’s visit. JVP calls on Presbyterians to pass a divestment measure:

The world will be watching carefully as Pope Francis begins his historic visit to Jordan, Palestine, and Israel this weekend.
While he likely won’t have to go through checkpoints himself, the Pope will witness firsthand the suffering and unjust imprisonment of the Palestinian people. People of conscience like you and me will be asking, “What can we do to end the injustice?”
And there is something you can do, right now. In a matter of weeks, the Presbyterian Church (USA) will be voting to divest from 3 companies that profit from creating misery for Palestinians.
Please join me and sign our multi-faith letter of support for Presbyterian divestment.
Unfortunately, some Jewish groups and their Christian supporters insist that a vote for divestment would damage interfaith relations between the two communities.
Your signature of support is critical because it sends the message to church leaders that solid relations between Christians, Jews, Muslims, and people of other faiths must be based on respect for the dignity and well-being of all fellow human beings.
The Pope is doing his part. In an unprecedented move, he has chosen a rabbi and an imam to accompany him on his trip. He will also be meeting with Christian leaders of other churches. We are all one family.
Your message of support to the Presbyterian Church will carry the same message: We are all one. We stand together. The time to divest from injustice has come.
When he visits Bethlehem, perhaps Pope Francis will see the holes left in the ground where, just this week, the Israeli army uprooted over 1,500 fruit trees just a few miles south west of Bethlehem. Or he’ll touch the wall, built illegally on Palestinian land, that separates families and friends from each other, and farmers from their land. Or he’ll feel the sting of segregation when he is allowed to travel on Israeli roads, across Palestinian land, that Palestinians are actually banned from using.
No matter what, we will continue to support divestment. We will continue to call for justice.

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56 Responses

  1. seafoid
    seafoid on May 23, 2014, 10:51 am

    Nothing says “we could never escape from the shtetl even though we changed our names and our language ” like that fortress in the background

  2. just
    just on May 23, 2014, 10:58 am

    Great letter from JVP.

    I hope that Pope Francis will focus on the ongoing Nakba and condemn it in no uncertain terms. I have my fingers crossed– the time for being PC with Israel is way over. It’s past time for them to be held accountable for their multitude of crimes.

  3. Woody Tanaka
    Woody Tanaka on May 23, 2014, 11:06 am

    “While he likely won’t have to go through checkpoints himself, the Pope will witness firsthand the suffering and unjust imprisonment of the Palestinian people. ”

    He should make it a point of finding the longest line of Palestinians in the occupied Levant and stand himself at the end of it and refuse all the attempts by the Zionists to usher him through. He should let himself undergo the humiliations of the occupation.

    • eljay
      eljay on May 24, 2014, 10:04 am

      >> He should make it a point of finding the longest line of Palestinians in the occupied Levant and stand himself at the end of it and refuse all the attempts by the Zionists to usher him through. He should let himself undergo the humiliations of the occupation.

      That’s a move I could seriously respect.

  4. Bumblebye
    Bumblebye on May 23, 2014, 11:18 am

    Twice “the pop”.
    Can’t spell it right, nor give it a capital letter!

    • just
      just on May 23, 2014, 11:20 am

      Profound disrespect…….

      color me surprised/n

  5. Kay24
    Kay24 on May 23, 2014, 11:32 am

    He is there for only a very short time. Pope Francis will never know what life has really been like for the Palestinian people. Most probably the hardship, and meanness, they face on a daily basis, will be taken out of his sight, however, this visit is going to bring world focus on this horrible occupation, and maybe the anti Christian crimes by “God’s chosen” would get some attention, and open minds.
    The US controlled media, will downplay that aspect of the visit, so sure.

  6. Citizen
    Citizen on May 23, 2014, 1:45 pm

    What a joke. This pope, who does things to make you think he’s a man of the people, one who washes the feet of whores, etc…..meanwhile, his predecessor still roams the halls of the Vatican in pope robes. What are we to think of this Church? The mettle of this new pope will be shown shortly. Keep tabs on it! If there comes no blast into the breaking news about the plight of the Palestinians, and the US funding of this sordid tale, we can all conclude this new pope is a phony. The job of this pope is to show clearly what the US encourages by funding Israel nonstop, heavily. Wanna bet this new pope will fail?

    • amigo
      amigo on May 24, 2014, 8:58 am

      Citizen, I am am a non practicing Catholic but I resent your insults against the Pope.

      Btw, it is customary to use a capital P when writing his title.

      • NickJOCW
        NickJOCW on May 24, 2014, 2:59 pm

        amigo, Thanks.

      • Citizen
        Citizen on May 25, 2014, 6:23 am

        @ amigo
        What is “a non-practicing Catholic?”

  7. Citizen
    Citizen on May 23, 2014, 1:48 pm

    We will soon see if this new pope is on AIPAC payroll. Meanwhile, what’s the former pope doing, walking around in pope rags?

    • RoHa
      RoHa on May 23, 2014, 8:00 pm

      Politicians make sure they will get huge pensions when they get chucked out of office. U.S. Ex-presidents keep the title. Deposed and abdicated kings take other royal titles. Retired professors are professors emeriti. So what’s the big deal about an ex-Pope wearing popey clothes?

      (Stephen Leacock said that emeritus was compounded from e (out) and meritus (deserved) and thus means “out, and so he should be.”)

      • NickJOCW
        NickJOCW on May 25, 2014, 4:30 am

        RoHa, Your informant is under a misapprehension. The word derives indeed from the Latin emereo -ere meaning to obtain by service. The past participle, emeritus, was applied to a Roman veteran, a soldier who had served his time. The connotations are honourable.

      • RoHa
        RoHa on May 25, 2014, 4:54 am

        Actually, Leacock and I both knew that. Perhaps you do not know Leacock?

    • NickJOCW
      NickJOCW on May 24, 2014, 4:16 am

      It distresses me greatly to encounter such blind prejudiced comments from this side of the fence. Dragging Pope Benedict in is the sort of thing so often dismissed in your hasbarists. I am certain the Pope is far from ignorant or unmoved by the situation of the Palestinians. The official papal itinerary reads:


      and from The Guardian:

      The first thing the pope will do when he enters the Israeli-occupied West Bank is to call on “the president of the state of Palestine”. The wording is significant: Francis is announcing that he is visiting an entity that Israel, like the United States, insists does not exist.

      • just
        just on May 24, 2014, 7:03 am

        Thank you Nick.

    • Ellen
      Ellen on May 24, 2014, 3:09 pm

      Wow Citizen, I know there is a sport in making jest of Catholics and the Pope, but have you been drinking?

      Did you grow up with an innoculated fear of Catholics, all those smells and bells and the Pope’s “costume” as Rudoren refers to public Papal dress in her reporting today.

      Symbolic tradition of some too much to het your head around ?

      Btw, so far all considered his trip is doing what it should — he is reaching out to the oppressed in the region and all communities of faith. Like it or not his visit is hugely important for Christians in the region.

      He went straight from Jordan to the Occupied region.

      • adele
        adele on May 24, 2014, 3:38 pm

        I was just online searching for the Pope’s Jordan/Palestine/Israel itinerary and came across a Daily Beast article which included this quote which I particularly liked :-) So far so good. But still falls short of fully coming out on record against Apartheid.

        “The Israeli National News quoted the pope’s friend and Argentinian parliamentarian Rabbi Sergio Bergman as claiming “the pope intends to define himself as the ‘Che Guevera of the Palestinians’ and support their ‘struggle and rights.’”

        The article also mentioned that the Pope will be traveling with two trusted friends from Argentina, one a rabbi, the other a Muslim scholar.

  8. Rusty Pipes
    Rusty Pipes on May 23, 2014, 6:00 pm

    Interesting contrast in the awkward English of this official GOI notice at a checkpoint with the fluent English of the flyers the right-wing youths were distributing in Jerusalem. I am reminded of how frequently Brooklyn-accented English can be heard among the extremist settlers.

    • Walid
      Walid on May 24, 2014, 8:41 am

      Not just the English, Rusty, the Arabic although does not start with “massage” as in the English, is very sloppy and doesn’t totally relate to the English version.

      For one thing, it’s addressed to the honourable citizens rather than simply to the citizens and ends with endeared citizens and refers to the Pope as the “Supreme Pontiff ” with the quotation marks twice, probably to avoid having to wash their mouths after they translated the notice.

      Checkpoints in the Arabic version are not called so but the words “crossings are used. The English Zeitum checkpoint becomes the Zeitoun Crossing in Arabic and a third available crossing called “Jib’aa” is not even mentioned in the English version.

      In English, the restrictions not being applicable to “delegations, tourists and humanitarian cases” are made in the Arabic version simply as “with exception to special cases”

      The handwritten addition at top of the Arabic version says “tomorrow Thursday until 7 am, but doesn’t say till what day.

      Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy for a country with so many Nobel laureates, the cherry tomatoes and the rest of the sing-song.

      • just
        just on May 24, 2014, 8:51 am

        I was wondering what the Arabic version was, and hoping you’d come along Walid. Thanks for the explanation.

        They really don’t give a damn, do they? All they care about is their ability to cruelly control the lives of others.

    • wondering jew
      wondering jew on May 24, 2014, 9:31 am

      Rusty Pipes- People from Brooklyn speak the Kings’ English. In the rest of America they speak with an accent.

      • Walid
        Walid on May 24, 2014, 10:07 am

        Yonah, in neither Brooklyn nor the rest of NYC does anyone speak anything close to the Queen’s English.

      • RoHa
        RoHa on May 24, 2014, 7:40 pm

        Do they speak any sort of English in Queens?

      • Walid
        Walid on May 25, 2014, 3:06 am

        More on the Queen’s English, one that speaks it very fluently, especially with the British accent is the British-educated King Abdullah II of Jordan. His mother must have surely had something to do with it, Princess Muna al-Hussein; she was the former Antoinette Avril Gardiner of the UK. She met King Hussein while working as a secretarial assistant on the filming of “Lawrence of Arabia” in Jordan. She converted to Islam and became “Princess Muna” to marry the king. Her other 3 children are Prince Feisal, Princess Aisha and to Princess Zein.

      • RoHa
        RoHa on May 25, 2014, 4:49 am

        Not just the king. On the Jordanian Radio English language service you hear (or used to hear) better English than on the BBC.

      • Ecru
        Ecru on May 25, 2014, 5:17 am

        @ yonah

        Unless Lizzy’s the longest running drag act in history I think you’ll find that, with there being a woman on the throne it’s now called the QUEEN’S English not the King’s.

  9. Daniel Rich
    Daniel Rich on May 23, 2014, 8:52 pm

    To give the pontiff a warm welcome ‘Church defaced in Israel ahead of pope visit‘.

  10. wes
    wes on May 23, 2014, 11:52 pm

    this a great occasion ,an important step not to be dismissed,the start of a true reconciliation for the 3 peace will be possible in the middle east without this reconciliation.may G-d give the 3 companions the strength to build a new unity amongst all believers

    blessed are you G-d king of the universe,who dwells in the 7 realms
    in the north,in the south
    in the east,in the west
    in the earth below
    in the heavens above
    in our souls eternally

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka on May 24, 2014, 4:22 pm

      Peace being possible has nothing to do with “G-d” but on whether the zionists will stop acting like barbarians.

  11. MahaneYehude1
    MahaneYehude1 on May 24, 2014, 12:59 am

    I asked Suarez about the laughable spelling. He said, “It is authentic. It is IN the Bethlehem checkpoint. It is the official notice.”

    It is really an authentic document. Look how they use the name “Rachel”, a name that the Palestinians use for hundreds of years even today, despite some efforts of the PA to erase this name.

    • just
      just on May 24, 2014, 11:37 am

      Horribly ironic that the Israelis ‘erased’ the very brave young life of Rachel Corrie by murdering her, eh?

    • amigo
      amigo on May 24, 2014, 11:54 am

      Lazarus is risen from the dead.

      Well mehane 1,2 or 3???.

      Got any more Pallywood theories after you long absence.

      Care to apologise for insulting Palestinian people and especially the Parents of the murdered children at the hands of “Apartheid Israel”.

      Or don,t you have the guts to admit you were wrong.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka on May 24, 2014, 12:12 pm

        Of course he eon’t apologize. He has no character whatsoever.

    • Walid
      Walid on May 24, 2014, 3:22 pm

      Mahane, as you surely must know, the Arabic name is Raheel and whether she is called Rachel or Raheel, she still remains the mother of Youssef that’s equally revered by the Muslims. So nobody is trying to erase the name. You’re mixing situations here with the controversy involving what the Jews call “Rachel’s Tomb” and what the Muslims call “Bilal bin Rabah mosque”. There’s another controversy over what the Jews call the Western Wall and what everybody else calls a remnant of a Roman fort.

      • just
        just on May 24, 2014, 3:39 pm

        Nicely done, Walid. Not sure he can ‘handle’ the truth.

  12. Walid
    Walid on May 24, 2014, 1:19 am

    As a former pope, he is no longer in the curia but continues to wear the papal white cassock but without the mozzetta and the red slippers. His name remains Benedict XVI, Latin Pontiff Emeritus. His residence is in a monastery located within Vatican City.

  13. Citizen
    Citizen on May 24, 2014, 7:03 am

    This pope is not bringing the pope mobile; but will walk around some, and go about in a convertible top auto with the top down; he doesn’t expect giant Christian crowds. Maybe he will experience that habit some orthodox Jews have, when they meet Christian church folks in the Israeli street? Spitting.

    • Walid
      Walid on May 25, 2014, 7:21 am

      Interestingly, the Pope has always had papal limousines but the first “papamobile” in the modern sense was manufactured in Quebec in 1984 for John-Paul II’s 12-day visit to Canada that stretched from the Pacific to the Atlantic. He had been shot 3 years earlier, so Canada decided to play it safe and ordered 2 papamobiles. General Motors contributed 2 GMC Sierra pickups that were sent to fire-engine manufacturer Thibault in eastern Quebec to complete the adaptation and these were the first bulletproof vehicles that the Pope used. The Pope liked it so much that he asked to have one of them sent to Rome. After a few years, Mercedes produced a more elegant reinforced Popemobile and the Canadian ones were retired, except for a short period when the Canadian unit was flown to Cuba for the papal visit there.

  14. Walid
    Walid on May 24, 2014, 1:40 pm

    Pope’s first day that was in Amman for a mass for 25,000 in the Amman stadium was uneventful. He later dipped a finger in the Jordan River and recited a prayer. The real action will start tomorrow when he starts meeting with Palestinian refugees in the occupied territories and will conduct an ecumenical mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to mark the 50th anniversary of the Catholic Church historic reconciliation with the Orthodox Church dating back to 1054 AD that was held in Jerusalem. The Pope is in the Holy Land to tell the Christians to hold on to their land, which shouldn’t be music to Zionist ears. There’s also the rumbles between the Church and Israel about the Zionists’ theft of the Cremisan Salesian monastery land and the Zionist-blocked canonization of Pope Pius XII because of his (Zionist-alleged) collaboration with the Nazis while history recorded that he was actually instrumental in having saved thousands of Jews.

    • just
      just on May 24, 2014, 1:45 pm

      Zionists just can’t seem to understand that it is not “all about them”. A most decidedly egocentric and misguided/misanthropic group.

      The best of luck & health to Pope Francis in his travels. I am entirely certain that he has his eyes wide open, and his heart as well.

      • Walid
        Walid on May 24, 2014, 1:58 pm

        Just, Israelis, especially the religious ones are taught that Israel is the navel of the world with 3 or 4 different quotes from the Bible to that effect. It’s therefore of little wonder that they’d believe that the universe revolves around them.

        About the 1054 AD note above, that was the year of the Great Schism between the 2 churches; sorry for the omission.

      • just
        just on May 24, 2014, 2:08 pm

        Yes Walid. I, too, can find a quote to justify almost everything/anything as well.

        It does not make it so.

    • Walid
      Walid on May 24, 2014, 1:46 pm

      For the Pope’s Sunday lunch in Bethlehem, he asked to be left alone with 5 “poor” Palestinian families, no soldiers, no bodyguards, no diplomats and he asked to have only an interpreter present for the lunch he will have with the 5 families.

      • just
        just on May 24, 2014, 1:52 pm


        Just as I expected/hoped.

      • Ellen
        Ellen on May 24, 2014, 3:26 pm

        How will NYT’s Rudoren report that ? What spin will it take? Or is it to be ignored so she can report on the colors of Rosary Beads Palestinians may be holding — in a sly and veiled attempt to play upon the prejudices of many of her readers and her own — to make them look primitive, ignorant and ridiculous.

        The NYT should not have her reporting on this.

      • just
        just on May 24, 2014, 3:43 pm

        So many adherents of so many faiths use prayer beads…

      • Walid
        Walid on May 25, 2014, 12:10 am

        “So many adherents of so many faiths use prayer beads…”

        Just, as far as Christians are concerned, beads used to recite the Rosary were a concept picked up from the Muslims and introduced in the West by St. Francis after his visit to Egypt and the Holy Land to plead for the end of the crusaders’ wars. St. Francis is also reputed to have brought back the custom of the Muslims’ muezzin call to prayer which was eventually translated into a church bell ringing for the Angelus by Franciscan monasteries in Italy.

        You can be sure that Pope Francis that picked his name from St. Francis for obvious reasons will also be trying to bring peace to the region. St. Francis’ kindness succeeded at at mellowing the Sultan’s heart in 1219 but could Pope Francis do the same with Netanyahu’s today?

      • just
        just on May 24, 2014, 4:02 pm

        Oh look, Ellen:

        “At the stadium, thousands of refugees, Jordanians and pilgrims from Europe awaiting the pope cheered as a rosary-like ring of pink balloons escaped into the air. Among them were more than 1,000 schoolchildren who later lined up to take their first communion.”

        Jodi also has ‘problems’ with capitalization of ‘Pope’.

      • Ellen
        Ellen on May 24, 2014, 4:39 pm

        Good golly…thanks for the link. Well, that did not take long and almost right on about the beads. But now she equated the with balloons!

        Does the NYT have copy editors? They sure do not have a real journalist there.

        Her characterization of the children “lining up” to “take” their first Communion is yet another confirmation she is so clueless about what is going on, she had no business there.

        Her reporting is absolutely cringe-worthy.

      • Walid
        Walid on May 25, 2014, 12:39 am

        Jodi either has problems with her colours or she simply reported second hand news she picked up at the coffee shop. She could have at least watched the event on TV, as I did.

        The balloons were NOT pink, but BLUE. Nicole Winfield of Associated Press wrote about it.

        “… Enormous blue balloons in the shape of a rosary, complete with a blue balloon crucifix, rose into the sky.”

        The Pope’s photo Jodi used in her phony article was taken from Agence France-Presse. Probably the same for the article itself; it looks like she couldn’t be bothered to even follow it on TV.

      • ritzl
        ritzl on May 25, 2014, 3:27 am

        Given the lack of Catholics in the NYC area, she’ll probably just judge it to be of little interest and skip the story. ;P

      • Walid
        Walid on May 25, 2014, 3:50 am

        Can’t blame you for mocking Jodi, ritzl. Irish, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Mexicans at half a million for each group plus 3 million Italians, almost all of those are Catholics. There are 560,000 and 240,000 Jews in Brooklyn and Manhattan, respectively. But you’re right, she probably thinks that all these Catholics are there as accessory to the serve the 3/4 million Jews.

  15. Ellen
    Ellen on May 25, 2014, 4:38 am

    She gave credence to the delusion the the murder of Palestinian youths by the IDF was staged, she has no understanding of what she is reporting on so writes about balloons and clothes. Her reporting has the “ho hum” voice as she cannot be bothered to even use the uppercase in reference to the Pope.

    I wonder if she would cover the angle that a large percentage of Zionist Israelis believe this visit by Pope Francis is defiling Israel. That would be an interesting angle to report upon.

  16. Citizen
    Citizen on May 25, 2014, 6:54 am

    Here’s details on the families Pope Francis lunched with yesterday:

    Has this been picked up in the US mainstream cable TV talk/infotainment shows?

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