Henrique Cymerman has made a career out of talking to people who technically, should be his enemies. That was exactly why Pope Francis enlisted his help to bring the Israeli and Palestinian presidents together to pray for peace.
Cymerman is the middle east correspondent for several news outlets based on the Iberian peninsula, including Spain’s La Vanguardia newspaper and Portugal’s SIC television.
Why would the pope turn to a journalist to help orchestrate his peace prayer gathering? Cymerman is Portuguese-born. His father was Polish Jew and his mother came from a Sephardic Spanish family. He moved to Israel as a young man, studying at the University of Tel Aviv. As a journalist he has interviewed the key players in the constantly evolving situation in the middle east. Cymerman was there when Anwar Saddat landed in Tel Aviv to announce he wanted peace, broke the news about the Madrid Peace Conference in the 1991, and was the last journalist to interview Yitzak Rabin, hours before the Prime Minister was killed.
Still, when Cymerman accompanied Rabbi Abraham Skorka to the Vatican about a year ago to visit the new pope, he had no reason to expect anything other than a good, long talk.
According to Cymerman he and Rabbi Skorka spent five hours at the Santa Marta visiting with the pope. Cymerman had his video camera with him, and recorded some of there conversation “but it was not an interview.”
The three men adjourned to the dining room to eat. Cymerman told Spain’s TeleCino that after the meal Pope Francis led them to one of the meeting rooms, closed the door, and with the cameras off, asked “How can I help? How can I help with the Middle East?” Both Cymerman and Skorka reportedly said “Come visit. Your presence will send a message”
From that moment on there were numerous phone calls, emails and messages. Because of Cymerman’s contacts in the middle east he was tasked with taking messages to some of the parties involved, delivering papers, and providing advice. Originally the gathering was supposed to take place during the pope’s trip but with the breakdown of peace talks between Israel and Palestine in April, it became more difficult to get both sides to meet in the region.
Cymerman was also granted an exclusive interview with Pope Francis, which was published in Spain’s La Vanguardia on Friday. The video version of the interview is scheduled to in Europe over the weekend.
The English translation of the interview is available on Vatican Insider.