The visit of Pope Francis next week, like any top level visit, will causes inconvenience for Jerusalem residents, especially those living in the inner city where some streets will be closed to traffic.
The police have posted signs on light poles fences and vehicles stating that from 4 p.m. on Sunday till 1 p.m. on Monday, no vehicles will be permitted to park on Hanassi or Radak streets, which intersect opposite the residence of the president. Vehicles of violators of the ban will be inspected for bombs and then towed to Liberty Bell Park.
Police barriers were already in place on both sides of the streets on Thursday, and preparations were being made at the President’s Residence for the arrival of the pope on Monday.
Staff at the residence allowed media representatives to see the preparations in progress. Almost everywhere one turned there were stands with the Pope’s Standard, the President’s Standard and the national flag of Israel.
Bolts of mismatched and slightly frayed red carpet were scattered in the grounds and in the main reception hall and unrolled for the cameras.
A member of staff said new carpets were arriving, but they won’t be ready for another two months – just in time for them to be inaugurated by the outgoing and incoming presidents of the state.
More than 20 stills photographers and television crews showed up on Thursday to capture visuals of the preparations. The Italian television crews wanted to record something in Italian.
President’s Residence deputy director-general Yoram Raviv, who is fluent in Italian, addressed Christians on the message of peace that the pontiff is bringing to Jerusalem.
There will be no English at the ceremony on Monday.
At the request of the Vatican, there will be only two languages – Hebrew and Italian, the president’s spokeswoman Ayelet Frish said.
Meanwhile, in the rear area where the main ceremony will take place, yet another language was heard. It was Yiddish, spoken by a small group of haredim who were putting up demarcation barriers.
Asked how come they were working for the pope’s visit, the reply was, “We’re not working for him, we’re working for ourselves.” Pressed as to whether they were being paid for their work or whether it was a matter of community service, they declined to answer.
Frish didn’t know the answer but surmised that they had won a tender to do the work.
On Monday, President Shimon Peres and Francis will pray together for peace in the presence of 600 children representing the religious and ethnic mosaic of Israel’s population.
The president and the pope will also join forces in planting an olive tree in the presidential garden as a symbol of peace.
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