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How the pope wound up at the terror victims’ memorial

Raphael Ahren has the backstory behind the pope’s visit to the terror victims’ memorial on Mount Herzl Monday morning.

According to his report, Israeli officials saw Francis’s stop at the separation barrier in Bethlehem on Sunday as a carefully planned PR stunt by Palestinians, and decided they needed to respond.

After some brainstorming, it was Rami Hatan, the director of the Foreign Ministry’s World Religions department, who came up with the idea: Why not ask the pope to visit the memorial for the victims of terrorism, to show him and the entire world why we built the wall in Bethlehem?

A handout picture released by the Vatican press office shows Pope Francis, looking at a memorial alongside Israeli President Shimon Peres, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, second left, at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem on May 26, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/ OSSERVATORE ROMANO)
Pope Francis looks at a memorial alongside President Shimon Peres, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, second left, at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem on May 26, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/ OSSERVATORE ROMANO)

“The Vatican officials explained to us that the pope didn’t pray against the separation barrier, but he prayed against the situation that forces such a wall to be built,” diplomat Lior Haiat said. “Therefore, we thought we need to show him why we built the wall. It’s obvious that the barrier is a result of something, it is not the reason.”

After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the idea, the Foreign Ministry staff approached the Vatican official in charge of protocol, who immediately agreed.

Read the whole yarn here.

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