Pope Benedict XVI was presented with a great many gifts during his visit to the Holy Land. Careful thought had gone into each to ensure the token carried the desired message: religious, political, national and other.
Here's a (partial) list of what the pope left Israel and the West Bank with:
- Nano-Bible: the whole Bible --all 1.2 million letters and 300,000 words-- engraved on a silicon chip the size of a grain of sand by researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.
- Painting: "Camp Synagogue," by Felix Nussbaum, a Jewish artist who perished in Auschwitz.
- Ancient lamp: a 1,500-year-old menorah, a rare antique lamp, gift of the Jewish National Fund, which had worked for weeks to prepare the site of the Mass at Mt. Precipice near Nazareth.
- Covenant to save lives: Magen David Adom, Israel's largest medical organization, conceived a covenant addressing the highest religious value of all, saving lives, from an interfaith perspective. Written and signed by distinguished Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders.
- Ancient map: a framed copy of Heinrich Bunting's famous 16th century depiction of Jerusalem as the center of the clover leaf-shaped Old World, presented by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat upon welcoming Benedict to Jerusalem.
- The Gospel of Luke: a volume of 65 poster-size pages written in ornate Arabic script by a Bethlehem artist of Islamic calligraphy. The Bethlehem mayor commissioned the Muslim Yasser Abu Saymeh for the project, a message of religious coexistence that took two months to complete.
Bronze sculpture (right): Jerusalem artist Aharon Bezalel's sculpture designed of 10 bronze figures welded together, the tallest three engraved with a cross, moon and menorah in a sign of religious coexistence. This completes a circle for the artist, who had met with Pope John Paul II and presented him with a sculpture honoring the memory of the Holocaust. It is on display in the Vatican.
A few of the gifts combined ancient and modern, some were an interfaith statement, and others yet hinted at political issues, such as the sash that was given to him when he visited a West Bank refugee camp; it was embroidered with a key--a symbol of Palestinian refugees' desire to return to their homes, now in Israel.
Pope Benedict brought some gifts with him too, such as the ventilator for a children's hospital and a mosaic representation of the birth of Jesus he presented to Bethlehem. And, he left a note in the Western Wall.
But some people wanted the pope to return some stuff too.