That revolution is the sea-change last 35 years in the RomanCatholic Church's attitude toward the Jewish people. Since the SecondVatican Council in 1965, this transformation has been expressed through officialchurch conferences and documents, formal apologies for past persecutions,significant changes in education and liturgy, diplomaticrecognition of the State of Israel, and intensive dialogue with Jewish groups on a wide range of issues.
Despite all that, the shift in the church's teachings about the people itonce called "perfidious Jews" but now accepts as its spiritual "senior brother"remains unknown to two-thirds of Israeli Jews, according to a recent Galluppoll.
Nor are Jews who know about the change necessarily prepared to immediatelyforgive the Catholic Church--or Christian Europe in general--fornearly two millenia of murder, forced conversion, Inquisition and theHolocaust.
"I know all about Vatican II," nods an Orthodox Jewish Jerusalemite active in anti-Christian missionary work. "But let the pope stay in Rome."
Given Jews' painful historical memories and the unpredictable politicaland multicultural brew of Israeli society, it's no surprise that attitudeshere about the pope's upcoming six-day visit are diverse and complex.
What is unexpected is that--despite the tidal wave of media coverage,despite the 50,000 tourists the papal visit is expected to bring,despite what police call "the largest, most complicatedvisitor-protection operation" in Israel's history--despite allthat, a lot of ordinary Israelis--Jews and even some Muslims and Christians--are greeting the great event with a yawn.
They're glad enough for him to come, but a common question here is, Doesanybody really care?
Ecumenical workers and religious professionals do, of course. A lot ofacademics are watchfully interested, and journalists, whose bread andbutter it is, are on full alert.
But beyond that, as Rosen, who heads the Jerusalem Anti-Defamation League ofice, acknowledges, the general attitude among Israeli Jews in particular might best be discribed as one of "neutral disinterest."
Father Raed Abusahlia, secretary to Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the head of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, acknowledges that many Israelis care "not so much" about the visit.
Claire Calmettes, a computer technician from Jerusalem's western suburbs--anda Catholic at that--summarizes the feelings of a large proportion of Israel'scitizens. When asked about the pope's coming, she gives a wave of dismissal and called the entire affair a staged media event whose real effect will be confined to monumental traffic jams and other interruptions of daily life.
Another sign of Israel's attitude toward the pope's coming visit is that the nation'sministry of education--in a year in which the educational theme isthe millennium--has provided no materials to teachers about either thepapal visit or relations between Jews and Christians. Nor does the curriculum contain anything about recent changes in church teachings about Jews. High school students are educated to see historical Christianity as anegative phenomenon, says Rosen, whose attempts to develop a "values-education" component relevant to the papal visit were ignored by the ministry.
Even Israeli opposition to the visit has been tepid, confined to some anti-pope graffiti on the walls of Jerusalem's Old City and the building housing theoffice of Israel's chief rabbis, plus a few demonstrations that drew a handful of protestors objecting to Catholic anti-Semitism and "idol worship."
Still, the conventional wisdom may not be not the final word. In Nazareth, the Galilean city, now part of Israel, where Jesus worked as a carpenter and fished for souls, efforts to improve infrastructure, including the construction of new hotels, started five years ago, as the financially strapped city began to plan hopefully for the Y2K tourist boom that the pope is expected to inaugurate.
Nazarenes, both Christians and Muslims, are looking forward "very much" tothe pope's visit, according to Mohammed Darawshe, director of the NazarethArab Institute, an organization aimed at improving conditions for IsraeliArabs.
Indeed, in a show of brotherhood, Nazareth Christians and Muslims havetemporarily put aside a bitter dispute over land rights in the center ofthis once-Christian majority city "so people can welcome the pope as hedeserves," says Darawshe, a Muslim. He adds hopefully that when localChristians see the warm welcome that Muslims give the pope, relationsbetween the two communities will be "greatly improved."