Responding to numerous foreign media requests staff at the President’s Residence on Thursday allowed media representatives to see preparations in progress for the Papal visit. 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. Asked whether new carpets had been purchased for the Pope’s visit, a member of staff said new carpets were arriving, but not in time for Pope Francis to step on them. 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 twenty 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. Fortunately most of the president’s staff members are multi-lingual and deputy director general Yoram Raviv, who is fluent in Italian addressed Christian brothers and sisters on the message of peace which the Pontiff is bringing to Jerusalem.
There will be no English at the ceremony on Monday.
At the request of the Vatican, said the President’s spokeswoman Ayelet Frish, there will be only two languages – Hebrew and Italian.
Meanwhile, in the rear area where the main ceremony will take place, yet another surprising 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 when it is known that by and large the haredi community is against the visit, the reply was “We’re not working for him, we’re working for ourselves”. Pressed further as 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, Peres and the Pope will pray together for peace in the presence of 600 children representing the religious and ethnic mosaic of Israel’s population including children with disabilities.
The President and the Pope will also join forces in planting an olive tree in the presidential garden as an eternal symbol of peace.