UNESCO Director-General Pans Resolution Denying Jewish Ties to Temple Mount
JNS.org – UNESCO’s Director-General made a statement signaling her opposition to a resolution approved Wednesday by the organization’s member states that ignores Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and Western Wall.
“Jerusalem is the sacred city of the three monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam,” Irina Bokova said Friday. “To deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site, and runs counter to the reasons that justified its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list.”
Bokova added that each of the faiths’ ties to the city “build on texts and references, known by all, that are an intrinsic part of the identities and history of peoples.”
“The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities has a right to the explicit recognition of their history and relationship with the city,” she said.
Jerusalem is a “microcosm of humanity’s spiritual diversity,” Bokova noted, a place where “different peoples worship the same places, sometimes under different names.”
“The recognition, use of and respect for these names is paramount,” she continued. “The Al-Aqsa Mosque/Haram al-Sharif (the sacred shrine of Muslims) is also the Har HaBayit – or Temple Mount – whose Western Wall is the holiest place in Judaism, a few steps away from the Saint Sepulcher and the Mount of Olives trees revered by Christians.”
On Thursday, the resolution omitting Jewish ties to the nation’s holiest sites passed through UNESCO’s committee stage, 24 to 6, with 26 abstentions.
The resolution refers to the sites by their Muslim names only and labels Israel as a “occupying power” criticized for its “aggressions and illegal measures” at the Temple Mount, as well as at other holy sites throughout Israel, including the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron.
Despite her position, Bokova, who has spoken out against similar resolutions denying Jewish ties to Jerusalem holy sites, ultimately may not be able to take any steps against this document, which must still be validated by the Executive Board of UNESCO when it meets early next week where it is expected to pass without any modification to the language.
In light of the vote, Israel informed Bokova early Friday that it was suspending its cooperation with UNESCO. Israeli officials have slammed the resolution, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it “absurd” and President Reuven Rivlin saying it is an “embarrassment.”