Explaining Jewish Traditions and Beliefs

ROME, 15 (ZENIT.org).- On the eve of John Paul II's trip to the Holy Land, the Pontifical Gregorian University of Rome inaugurated an exposition that offers some of the most important symbols of the Jewish religion. Entitled "From the Temple of Jerusalem to the Synagogue: The Feasts of Pilgrimage and the Western Wall," the initiative was organized by the St. Andrew of the Quirinale Association of Roman citizens, established for the Jubilee, along with the Gregorian University, the Jewish Community of Rome, and the Israeli Embassies to the Vatican and Italy.

This is the first stage of a series of expositions and other cultural initiatives dedicated to Christianity and Islam, in addition to Judaism. The purpose is to foster mutual understanding among believers in the one God.

More than an exposition, this is a communications event that facilitates exposure to a different reality. According to Fr. Giovanni Notari, president of the St. Andrew Association, this "meeting" is important, "as Jews and Christians contemplate together a long passage of the history of salvation." Because of this, it is expected that the exposition "will help us to intensify an increasingly significant relation."

Fr. Notari recalled what John Paul II said during an audience in April of last year: "the dialogue between Christians and Jews must look to the future. The memory of sad and tragic events from the past can open the road to a new sense of fraternity and commitment, so that the infected seeds of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism will never take root in the heart of man."

"This is the purpose of the endeavor we are carrying out: to establish a real dialogue. Dialogue is an exchange between two, it is 'dia-logos,' the space of novelty that opens up when each one forgets himself to become a gift and meeting; a dialogue made in truth, justice and love, terms that have served as methodology in the conception of this exposition." Fr. Notari clarified, "We are not the ones who speak about our interlocutor; it is the Hebrew community that speaks about itself."

Judaism is defined as a religion of the temple; the community's life is organized around dates, celebrations and fasts, which help the believer to live fundamental principles on which existence is based. As a result, the exposition speaks about Hebrews through the representation of three important feasts: "Sukkoth," the feast of bells; "Pesach," Passover; "Shavuoth," feast of first fruits. All are linked by the common element of pilgrimage to the Temple.

A second room of the exposition is dedicated to 25 pictures of the Western Wall of Jerusalem, known as the Wailing Wall, by photographer Michal Ronnen Safdie.

Antonella Catani, who designed the exposition, has captured the most important moments in the life of the believing Jew with objects loaned by the Hebrew Museum in Rome. With these, the visitor can submerge himself in Jewish atmosphere and contemplate, for example, the "parokhat," ancient silver objects, or the "talled," worn by the Rabbi. It should be noted that the Jewish community in Rome is the oldest of the Diaspora; consequently, it has objects that are of incalculable historical value.