By Tamar Hausman
JERUSALEM (March 20) - Over 40 Palestinian institutions and dozens of Palestinian officials have signed a petition calling on Pope John Paul II "to intervene to lift the siege of Jerusalem," a spokesman for Orient House said yesterday.
The petition will be discussed this morning at a gathering of Palestinian officials and church delegates at Orient House and then officially presented to the pope when he visits the Temple Mount next Sunday.
Church representatives attending the meeting will include several from the Latin Patriarchate and from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. Palestinian officials will include Faisal Husseini, responsible for Jerusalem affairs, Afif Safieh, the Palestinian general delegate to the Vatican, and Amil Jarjoui, a Legislative Council member from Jerusalem.
In addition, a photo exhibit entitled "Our Story," which depicts Israeli aggression in the Palestinian Authority and in Lebanon, will run at Orient House the entire week of the pope's visit.
Husseini was critical of Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert's plans to be the first Israeli official greet the pope when he arrives in the city on Tuesday evening. Husseini considers this a way to assert Israeli control over east Jerusalem.
Olmert's spokesman, Hagai Elias, refused to comment on Husseini's remarks.
Meanwhile, there will be a prayer service at the Western Wall tomorrow to protest the pope's visit to the Temple Mount. The United Association of Movements for the Holy Temple, a new umbrella organization of Jewish movements working to retain Jewish authority over the Temple Mount, will be there to show that "the pope's visit to the Temple Mount is a derogatory and humiliating step," said association spokesman Rabbi Chaim Richman.
"The visit substantiates the PLO-Vatican agreement which essentially calls for the division of Jerusalem," said Richman.