How big can a cross be when visiting the Jewish Western Wall in Jerusalem? I don’t know. There aren’t any stated regulations. But people’s feelings play a role and yes, there are many Jews who are bothered by the cross of Christianity. This week, a German abbot wore a cross that was apparently too large and conspicuous for the Jewish environment. So noticeable that a Jewish supervisor was bothered by the adornment and spoke to the abbot about it. For Jews, the cross is not a sign of hope as it is for Christians, who hold it aloft as a symbol of the forgiveness of sins and God’s reconciliation with mankind. The Jewish people have suffered under the shadow of the cross throughout Church history. What happened this week rarely happens. And when it does, should be looked at in relative terms and taken in context.
It all started with an accident when the German Federal Minister for Education and Research, Bettina Stark-Watzinger, visited the Western Wall with the German abbot Nikodemus Schnabel. There was a polite confrontation in front of the Jewish holy site when a law enforcement officer from the Western Wall Foundation saw the cross and asked the abbot to hide it. The dimensions of the cross were simply too large and, according to the guard, inappropriate for the holiest site of the Jewish people. A video shows Schnabel explaining his cross necklace: “This is my normal attire and not a provocation.” I believe Nikodemus Schnabel is aware of Jewish sensitivities.
Forschungsministerin @starkwatzinger erlebt am Mittwochmorgen in Jerusalem mit, wie Abt @PaterNikodemus auf dem Platz vor der Klagemauer (außerhalb der Gebetszone) aufgefordert wird, sein Kreuz abzunehmen. Die Offizielle sagt, es handele sich um eine neue Regelung. @derspiegel pic.twitter.com/Zy1GxBVCRP
— Christoph Schult (@schultchristoph) July 19, 2023
But the Jewish guard did not give up and asked Schnabel to cover the cross. Nicodemus refused and was ultimately denied access to the Western Wall. Abbot Nikodemus Schnabel and the German government minister abruptly left the area. The Western Wall Foundation later apologized for the inconvenience caused.
End of the story. Such things happen and really don’t need to be played up any further. At the site of the Jewish Western Wall, not only are priests questioned by the local Jewish overseers about crosses, but also Jews who are not dressed appropriately or who are not behaving appropriately. In addition, Christian tourists and pilgrims wearing cross necklaces are never denied entry to the Western Wall. But above the Western Wall, Muslim religious guards of the Waqf search for hidden Bibles on those seeking to enter the Temple Mount complex. The Holy Book of Christians is impure and must not be near the mosques. Not only that, entry into Mecca in Saudi Arabia is strictly forbidden for non-believers, Jews and Christians alike. This is because Mecca is the city of the Prophet Mohammed and is therefore “pure” in a ritual sense and only Muslims are worthy to enter.
CLICK HERE to support Israel Today so that we can continue bringing you these important perspectives!
Many Germans remember that about seven years ago the Council President of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, partially removed his cross during a visit to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. When visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Western Wall, the bishops were asked by their own leaders not to wear their official crosses.
“As a Christian, one does not want to demonstratively carry the cross in front and thereby sow discord,” said Bedford-Strohm at the time. “As a representative of a religion, I have the task of working towards peace.” On the other hand, all the popes wore their crosses during their visits to the Holy Land and in front of the Jewish Western Wall. That wasn’t an issue at all.
What happened at the Western Wall this week was a one-off incident by a local guard, and not official policy. This same guard, like many other Jews, probably does not enter churches. For religious Jews, a church is a temple to idols, since the Christian theology of the Trinity is not, strictly speaking, monotheism. For this reason, rabbis advise their followers not to enter churches. The State of Israel sees things differently. The Israeli army and the Ministry of Education visit churches in the country with their soldiers and students to enlighten young people.
Incidentally, Father Schnabel is the eighth abbot of the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem on Mount Zion. During the Christmas Mass and other events at the abbey, large numbers of Jews come to Mount Zion and take part in the Christian celebrations. This is rarely reported. The media prefers to focus on isolated incidents of young Orthodox Jews bullying or spitting on priests in the Old City of Jerusalem, as happened recently. But this has been heavily criticized by official voices in the country.
The State of Israel is the home of the Jewish people. For two millennia, Jews in the Diaspora suffered under Christians bearing the symbol of the cross. Therefore, one can and may understand (but not approve!) if a few Jews here and there get upset at its sight. At the end of the day, history shows that by-and-large, Jews are more tolerant than Christians.
Israel Today Membership
Save 18% Per Month.
Six Months Membership
Save 9% Per Month.