JERUSALEM — Three children greeted Pope Francis in Jerusalem at the residence of Israel’s president on Monday, each speaking to him in Italian, Arabic and Hebrew. For one of those children, 12-year-old Mika Bachar, the personal encounter with the Pope at the event showed that Jews, Christians and Muslims can live together as friends, and her generation will make peace between Israel and Palestine a reality.
As part of President Shimon Peres’ reception for Pope Francis at the presidential residence in Jerusalem, Bachar, who lives with her family in Ra’anana, greeted the Holy Father in Italian, while two other children, Maya Khouri, 11, from Jaffa, and Itai Mizrahi, 8, greeted him in Arabic and Hebrew respectively. Itai had lost his father in a terrorist attack this past year on Passover.
Both Peres and Pope Francis spoke from the heart about their desire for peace in the Holy Land, particularly between Israelis and Palestinians.
But placed behind the Pope and the president on the stage were more than 100 school-aged youth — Jews, Muslims and Christians — gathered as a choir to accompany performers David D’Or and Miri Mesika sing songs of peace.
Mika was also among those youth singing for Pope Francis, and afterward spoke with the Register about her experience: both meeting the Pope, and the friendships she formed with her fellow interfaith singers. Her words give hope that should today’s political leaders fail, that her generation will make the peace Pope Francis has been encouraging: one built on mutual respect and friendship.
Mika, how did it come that you were here to sing for Pope Francis and to greet him?
Well, my mother, she has a relative that had some friends … like the people that produce the show, and she was looking for someone who speaks Italian. I speak Italian, so she asked me to come and greet him.
Fantastic! What was it like to greet Pope Francis?
A great honor.
What was that moment like? What were you feeling, what were you thinking?
I just couldn’t believe I was about to greet the Pope and, of course, the president.
How old are you? Do you live here in Israel?
I’m 12 1/2. I live here in Israel, and we came back last year from 10 years of living in Italy.
Are you and your family Catholic or Jewish?
And you’re here with Christians, Muslims and Jews — what does it feel like to all be together?
It’s awesome! You get to meet all these people who are the same as you but different in their own way. We all shared our religions together. I’ve made some new friends here.
There has been a lot of talk about the peace process but do you think your generation will be able to bring it about?
Of course: I’m 100% sure.
All the people you’re singing with, did you all become friends?
Yeah! I made some new friends. They were really cool and nice.
What are your thoughts about being here with Pope Francis, and what does it mean for you?
It was an awesome experience, it was really great. I’m honored to be here with these amazing people, Pope Francis and the president.
What were some of the songs you were singing?
Hallelujah, and I don’t know the name of the other song in English.
As a real final question, what would you like people back in the United States and around the world to take away from this experience?
I would like them to know that, one day, peace will come. If Pope Francis came here, of course he has the thought in mind, and he’s probably right.