Post-UNESCO Resolution Blues
During the festival of Sukkot, UNESCO passed a resolution disconnecting Jews from their holiest site, the Temple Mount. Despite the resolution, some 70,000 Jews thronged to the Western Wall for the Priestly Blessing as they did 2,000 years ago.
Among the Jews of that time was Jesus, whose pilgrimage is recorded by John in the Christian Bible. Some scholars even contend that Jesus was born during the Sukkot festival.
The Temple, the hub of religious/national life was described in detail by Josephus, the historian of the time, in his book The Jewish War. Indeed, according to Christian tradition, Jesus debated the Pharisees at the Temple some 600 years before Islam.
Hardly a week goes by without some archaeological discovery being made in Jerusalem. Last week, archaeologists found the remains of the “Third Wall” recorded by Josephus, protecting Jerusalem that was breached by the invading Romans. Scores of catapult boulders lie scattered on the ground.
A few weeks ago, beautiful mosaic tiles with geometric designs were unearthed from the Herodian Temple. One can picture the crowds passing through these magnificent floors, never imagining that 2,000 years later, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would declare to an indifferent world that Jews “would not be allowed to defile the Temple Mount with their dirty feet.”
The UNESCO resolution denying the Jewish connection to their most revered and holy place for 3,000 years is thus beyond bizarre.
Each country that voted for it or abstained, was in effect repudiating its own culture.
For starters, while the Quran never mentions Jerusalem even once, it does say in Ash-Shu’ara-59, Sura 26 that the children of Israel were the inheritors of their land (Israel). Strange therefore, but not surprising, that the Muslim countries that sponsored the resolution in effect trashed a section of their own holy book, which does not politically suit them. Never mind that in some countries a fatwa is issued against those who insult the prophet Mohammed.
What is more troubling, however, is that most Christian countries, including in Europe, abstained.
“Zion” and “Jerusalem” are mentioned about 157 and 660 times respectively in the Hebrew Bible. Additionally, the New Testament of the Christian Bible mentions Jerusalem another 146 times. Luke 9:51 records that “as the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”
Despite the centrality of the Jewish Jesus in the Temple narrative, the Pope has been silent. Other major Christian organizations, such as the World Council of Churches, are more concerned with “Christ at the Wall” than with Christ’s heritage.
This leads us to question whether decades of interfaith events were little more than klezmer and kosher supper occasions. And, what happened to tikkun olam, which was meant to be an interfaith watchword for a better world?
When push came to shove, the Pope and thousands of Christian clergy again forsook their “older brothers,” as Pope John Paul called the Jews. They shamed themselves by refusing to confront what amounted to a challenge not only to their “older brothers,” but to their very own heritage and identity. One would have thought that with the influx of uncontrolled Muslim migrants into Europe, they would have stood up to the “neighborhood bully,” as Nobel Prize laureate Bob Dylan described in his song, and sought some balance and self-respect. Instead, they opted for cowardice and failure.
Ironically, and hypocritically, France on the one hand continually resists Turkey’s attempts to join the EU because it does not share Europe’s Christian foundation and culture. On the other hand, it denigrates its own Judeo-Christian heritage it purports to hold dear and defend.
It was not the first and will not be the last time that western democracies BDS themselves (for that is what it really amounts to), from their core identity. For example, the church in New Zealand excised the words “Zion” and”Israel” from their 1989 prayer book. Replacement theology has also attempted to change the historical record. Political correctness is now in vogue no matter how misguided it is.
Not too far from the Temple Mount are sites that form the basis of Christendom’s birth and unfolding narrative 2,000 years ago. The Garden of Gethsemane is where Jesus was arrested and Golgotha, where Jesus, according to belief, was crucified – now the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Christianity’s most sacred place.
In Luke 9:15, the association of the Jewish Jesus with Jerusalem is made very clear with the words, “As the time approached when he was to be taken to heaven, he set his face resolutely towards Jerusalem.”
In July this year, Father Jacques Hamel was made to kneel in front of the altar in the parish of Saint-Etienne-du- Rouvray near Rouen and had his throat slit. The Pope called him a martyr.
Before he died, his last words were: “Stop! What are you doing?”
Father Hamel may well have directed these words to Europe and Christianity at large.
Are they listening?
Ron Jontof-Hutter is a Fellow at the Berlin International Centre for the Study of Anti-Semitism and the author of the satirical novel,” The trombone man: tales of a misogynist.” This article was first published by the Jewish Journal.