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Prime Minister Netanyahu presents Pope Francis with a menorah

The definition of “disputed” has expanded to include David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, at least according to the Agence France-Presse newswire.

For some reason, the site – which is revered by some Christian groups as the supposed site of the Last Supper – was never recognised as a disputed sit-in the past. When Jordan occupied the Old City of Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967, Mount Zion served as a no-man’s land between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom. There, as in the rest of Jordanian Jerusaelem, Jewish prayer rights were non-existent.


But the Catholic Church never seemed to mind the non-Catholic administration of the site. No Israeli or international media described Mount Zion as “disputed” when Pope Paul VI visited the Holy Land in 1964 (notably, the pontiff did not visit sovereign Israel or meet with Israeli leaders), nor was there any expectation that Jordan would cede control of the holy site to the Vatican.

Later, too, the Centacle, or Last Supper Room, failed to play a significant role in either the March, 2000 pilgrimage by Pope John Paul II, or in the May, 2009 visit by Pope Benedict XVI.

This visit is different, largely because Pope Francis, a member of the Franciscan faction of the Catholic Church, will celebrate mass at the site.  calling into question Israeli sovereignty over the site. Franciscan monks renovated the site in the 14th century, giving the current pope a special connection to the Centacle.

As a result, Vatican sources have said they would like Israel to cede control of the site, a request to which some Reform groups have said would be a meaningful “gesture” towards peace and reconciliation with the Church.

Israeli sources have said that David’s Tomb, a site that Jews believe is the burial site of King David, is not up for negotiation. Prime Minister Netanyahu has denied outright rumors that the site would be handed to then Church.

But today, Miri Regev announced that public deliberations would be held on the matter on Monday, May 19, and that representatives of both the Prime Minister’s Bureau and the Foreign Ministry are scheduled to attend the meeting.

Religious protesters are expected to demonstrate against the transfer of control on May 22, three days before the pope is set to visit Jerusalem. The newswire also cited the “fact”that the David’s Tomb site “is important to Muslims,” without citing any historic or religious connection between Islam and the holy site. In addition, the reported mentioned the recent rise in so-called price tag “hate crimes by Jewish extremists” against Muslim and Christian sites as an obstacle to the pope’s visit.

“The unrestrained acts of vandalism poison the atmosphere — the atmosphere of co-existence and the atmosphere of collaboration, especially in these two weeks prior to the visit of Pope Francis,” Latin Patriarch Fuad Twal, the most senior Roman Catholic figure in the Holy Land, said on Sunday.


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Avi is a news writer for The Jewish Press. In the past, he has covered Israel and the Jewish world for Israel National News, Ami magazine and other international media.