JERUSALEM, March 8 (JTA) Many Israelis will welcome the pope, but they don’t know much about the Roman Catholic Church’s attitudes toward Jews.
According to a Gallup poll commissioned by the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel and released Wednesday, 59 percent of Israeli Jews view the Pope John Paul II’s March 20-26 visit “positively” or “very positively.”
Fervently Orthodox Jews have the most negative view of the visit. Only 8 percent of the haredim said they view the visit in a positive light.
However, although 63 percent of the total polled know that the Vatican recognizes the State of Israel, only 44 percent said they know that the Vatican opposes anti-Semitism. In addition, only 35 percent know that the Vatican has issued an official apology for the Shoah.
After being told that the Vatican has indeed published an official apology for the Holocaust, nearly 48 percent said they believe the apology is sincere while more than 38 percent think the church is not sincere.
Nearly 47 percent of those polled said they believe that the pope was coming to Israel on a personal pilgrimage to Christian holy sites as he has stated.
More than 40 percent said the pope wants to spread a message of peace and dialogue for the year 2000. Another 23 percent said his goal is to influence the Middle East peace process and about 5 percent said they believe the pope’s real aim was to convert Jews to Christianity.
A majority of secular and traditional Israelis more than 55 percent said they are interested in participating in an interfaith dialogue.