Pope Benedict XVI and President Shimon Peres will inaugurate a new tradition when the pope arrives in Israel in two weeks: They will plant an olive tree in a stretch of ground on the Beit Hanassi complex that has been designated as a peace garden.
All world leaders visiting Beit Hanassi in the future will be asked to add their olive trees to the peace garden so that world peace will symbolically take root.
Despite attempts in some quarters to envelop the papal visit in political connotations, Benedict XVI is coming to the Holy Land under the banner of peace with goodwill toward all faiths and all nations. It is in this spirit that he will be greeted at Beit Hanassi by two children, one Christian and one Jewish, from Nazareth and Upper Nazareth who will welcome him to the land of milk and honey and present him with a basket of fruits containing the seven species.
The basket will also contain new fruits and grains developed in the Arava and in the Volcani Institute, and one of them will be named after the pope.
Other gifts the pope will receive at Beit Hanassi include a nanochip the size of a grain of rice containing the whole of the Bible, and a specially commissioned Menashe Kadishman painting.
Kadishman, one of Israel's foremost artists, is famous for his paintings of sheep. This painting will feature a shepherd, as the pope is considered the shepherd of his Catholic flock and is widely respected by other streams of Christianity.
Aside from a gala red carpet welcome, the pope will be greeted by some 800 people, including Voices of Peace, a 50-member children's choir of Jewish, Christian and Muslim singers from Jaffa; righteous gentiles living in Israel; Holocaust survivors; bereaved families; representatives of the Negev and the Galilee; Nobel Prize laureates; leading academics; leaders of Jerusalem's three major faiths; and various dignitaries.
Special prayers for peace will be recited by Jewish, Christian and Muslim spiritual leaders.
Peres and the pope will have a working meeting and will address the gathering before leaving for Yad Vashem.