President Reuven Rivlin and Pope Francis at the Vatican. (Kobi Gideon/GPO) (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

“Hamas, again and again, escalates the situation by cynically exploiting the people of Gaza,” Rivlin told the Pope. 

By: United with Israel Staff

Meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Tuesday, President Reuven Rivlin accused Hamas of escalating the situation while cynically exploiting the people of Gaza.

This was the second meeting between the two leaders at the invitation of the Pope. The first was in 2015.

The president and his wife Nechama received an official welcome to the Vatican by reviewing the Pontifical Swiss Guard in their traditional uniform.

The president also expressed his appreciation to the Pope for the friendly relations between the Holy See and the Jewish people on the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Fundamental Accord in December 1993. The Vatican Nunciature in Jerusalem and the Israeli Embassy to the Holy See were opened in January 1994.

Rivlin thanked the Pope for his positions and for his work fight against anti-Semitism. “Your absolute condemnation of acts of anti-Semitism and your definition of such acts as anti-Christian are a significant step in the ongoing fight to stamp it out,” said the president, emphasizing that “the state of Israel has full freedom of worship for all religions in all holy places.”

The two discussed the regional situation, while Rivlin underscored that the unending missile fire that Israeli citizens live under is unacceptable and cannot continue.

Hamas on Monday night and Tuesday unleashed a barrage of over 460 rockets from Gaza aimed at civilian targets, killing one man and wounding some 80 Israelis at various locations throughout the south. Some 25 structures inside Israeli communities were hit by the rockets.

“Hamas, again and again, escalates the situation by cynically exploiting the people of Gaza,” he said. “Israel does not want escalation or to hurt innocent civilians, but will not stand by while Hamas undermines stability and our civilians are harmed.”

Rivlin spoke to Francis about the return of IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens who are held by Hamas as a basic humanitarian condition for any possible future arrangement.

Israel Developing Pilgrimage in the Holy Land

The focus of the meeting between the two leaders was Israel’s “Land of the Monasteries” project that is progressing in the Jordan Valley, close to the baptismal site of John the Baptist.

Rivlin told the Pope that he is promoting the project out of a desire to develop further opportunities for Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land. “Developing the site is an important part of building bridges between peoples and religions and will allow the vision of co-existence to become a reality of cooperation between Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians.”

Rivlin added that the monasteries, which were surrounded by minefields in the past and have been inaccessible, will be handed over to their Christian owners for restoration and reopening in the second half of 2019, once the danger is cleared from the area, creating an area of pilgrimage for visitors from all over the world.

“Christian pilgrimage to Israel has increased in recent years and is an important part of our incoming tourism from many countries. Encouraging this is important to both us and the Vatican,” the president said.

At the meeting’s conclusion, Rivlin presented him with “Assemble Jerusalem”, a 3D print of the Old City of Jerusalem in stainless steel created by Lorin Fridberg, a student at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. The president told the Pope that the design is based on the outlines of the quarters of the Old City that can be dismantled and reassembled, connecting and merging them into a single complete object.

“Jerusalem has been a holy city for the three monotheistic religions for centuries. For the Jewish people, Jerusalem has been the spiritual center since the days of the First Temple over 3000 years ago, but it is also a microcosm of our ability to live together,” said the president.

Keep Israel Soldiers Warm this Winter - Send Care Packages!

We are honored to thank the young men and women of the IDF who risk their lives every day to protect and defend the citizens of Israel. Join us in sending winter care packages (and personal notes of support) to Israeli soldiers who are out in the cold all day long.

Warm up a soldier's heart with essential winter wear including a fleece jacket, hat, gloves and neck warmer. Keep an entire unit warm by ordering 10 packages! The soldiers greatly appreciate your love and concern.

Send a gift and write your personal message to a soldier today!

Click Here to Send Your Gift to Israeli Soldiers