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May 26, 2014

Pope Francis at the Separation Wall

There are many versions of the moment the Pope stopped yesterday in the West Bank to be photographed at the Israeli Separation Wall.  The visit included many gestures in deference to the Palestinians, including the Pope managing to avoid crossing any Israeli checkpoints.

Photos of the Pope resting his head on the wall and praying are certainly powerful. (Compelling, too, are these photos from Getty showing a Palestinian worker from an Israeli company attempting to remove the anti-Israel graffiti before the Pope came through.) The most incendiary shot was clearly this one, adjacent to text likening Bethlehem to the Warsaw Ghetto:

The most effective image, however, was the shot above, the version from AFP. With his mouth agape and his eyes cast up the dominating structure (the eyes of the girl and the security personnel surprisingly not on the Pope, but tracking upwards also), Francis resoundingly conveys how daunting and intimidating the partition(ing) is. The natural recipient of awe, it’s that rare to see the Pope ceding this much power — through the vulnerability of his expression — to anything. Of course, the fact that the prison-like watchtower stands as the taller vertical element also feels like blasphemy.

UPDATE: If you’re interested in an interesting and definitive visual account of how the graffiti was graffitied, don’t miss this.

(photo 1: Taufiq Khalil/AFP. caption: Pope Francis prays at Israel’s separation barrier after he made an unscheduled stop at the security wall drawing attention to the towering eight-metre (26-foot) high concrete wall topped by a guard tower, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. photo 2: Reuters.)

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