Bibi’s gift to Pope: A book on when the church persecuted the Jews

Sounds like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a lovely meeting with Pope Francis.

They talked for about a half-hour, focused on peace talks and touched on Iran. Bibi’s wife, Sara, encouraged Francis to visit Israel. And Bibi gave the pope a book with the inscription, “To his Holiness Pope Franciscus, a great shepherd of our common heritage.”

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The one slightly uncomfortable part may have been that the book was about one of the worst things the Catholic Church has ever done to the Jews.

Awkward.

Bibi decided that the best gift he could give the pope was “The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain,” the scholarly magnum opus of his father, Benzion, The tome is an in-depth book on the Spanish Inquisition, in which the church persecuted, and often executed, masses of Jewish converts to Catholicism who were accused of secretly practicing Judaism.

Maybe the gift was yet another reminder from Bibi about the dangers of ignoring an existential threat to the Jewish people (read: Iran). Maybe the Pope is an avid student of history.

Or maybe, in an age where a Jewish prime minister can meet cordially with the pope, it’s a sign of just how far we’ve come.

Ben Sales is JTA’s Israel correspondent. He reports on Israeli politics, culture, society and economics, in addition to covering Palestinian and regional affairs. A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and the Columbia University Journalism School, he is the former editor-in-chief of New Voices, the national Jewish student magazine.