The leaders of Ireland's four main Christian Churches have accepted an apology from the Israeli government after a Jewish settler prevented them from praying for peace at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Holocaust Memorial Day.One wonders whether that last sentence is an accurate reflection of the settler's views, or journalistic speculation.
The enraged settler blocked the way to Judaism's holy place because three of the men, including Cardinal Sean Brady, were wearing crucifixes which he took exception to as a symbol of Christ's death by Jews.
This incident took place after an Israeli security guard agreed that the Irish church leaders, who are on a five-day peace mission to the Holy Land, could wear their crosses going through the checkpoint.It should be noted that the officials at the Wailing Wall seemingly weren't the ones causing hassle - however, given the general atmosphere in Jerusalem, it's understandable the things would get quite tense when this settler raised his objection.
The local Lutheran Bishop, Munib Younan, who was accompanying Cardinal Brady; the Church of Ireland Primate, Alan Harper; the Presbyterian Moderator, John Findlay and Methodist President Roy Cooper, said that an angry settler threatened to stop them.
To avoid a confrontation that would have had serious diplomatic repercussions, the churchmen did not proceed with their visit.
After seven or eight minutes of consultations in Hebrew between the Israeli guard and Bishop Younan, Cardinal Brady decided that the Irish delegation would have to move on to keep an appointment at the Israeli ministry for foreign affairs.
Last night a spokesman for the Irish church leaders was at pains to explain that they had not been turned away, and that the incident was "a storm in a tea-cup".
Cardinal Brady revealed that after visiting the famous Al-Aqsa mosque they had decided to pay an unscheduled visit to the Western Wall and had not had the opportunity to coordinate the visit with the Israeli authorities.
"We encountered some difficulty in gaining access to the wall and the difficulty arose over our wearing crosses.
A security guard promised to bring some senior officers to resolve the matter," the Cardinal said. "But we were under constraints of time to be at another meeting scheduled in the ministry for foreign affairs."
The Cardinal said that later on during a visit to the ministry for social affairs, minister Isaac Hertzog, whose grandfather, Yitzhak Hertzog, was the first Grand Chief Rabbi of Ireland graciously conveyed an apology, which was accepted.