Amid reports that the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb—Jewish holy sites in Judea and Samaria—will be omitted from Israel’s list of national heritage sites due to UNESCO’s concern, Science and Technology Minister Rabbi Professor Daniel Hershkowitz called the omission “like denying our elementary heritage.”
“They are the burial place of our three fathers and four mothers,” Army Radio quoted Hershkowitz as writing to Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser. “The state of Israel extracts its entire heritage from these sites.”
In 2010, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu included both the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb on a list sites slated for rehabilitation and renovation as part of Israel’s National Heritage Program. However, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova expressed concern that inclusion of the two sensitive sites would escalate tensions in the region.
Additionally, U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry said the sites were “of historical and religious significance not only to Judaism but also to Islam and to Christianity as well.” Now, the two sites have reportedly been omitted by a prioritization committee.