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October 28, 2016 6:53 am

How Could Christian-Dominated Latin American Countries Embrace the UNESCO Vote on Jerusalem?

avatar by Leah Soibel

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UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Thousands of Christians from around the world recently visited Jerusalem to trace the footsteps of Jesus through the cobbled, winding streets of the Old City, just as they do every Sukkot. The holiday is one of the three Jewish festivals during which Jews made the pilgrimage to the Temple centuries ago, but now a UNESCO resolution claims that these events never happened.

It is hardly shocking that Iran, along with several Arab countries, voted in favor of the draft resolution by the UN cultural body, in a move widely viewed as denying the historic and religious ties between Jews and Jerusalem.

But among all the many absurdities of that resolution, the most stunning for me was the fact that Latin American powerhouses Brazil and Mexico, along with Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, embraced it

The latest figures from the Pew Research Center show that in these countries, and in the rest of Latin America, the vast majority of the populations identify as Christians (69% of the continent’s total population is Catholic, 19% is Protestant).

Surely these countries understand that by diminishing Jewish history, UNESCO is de facto negating Christian ties to the holy city as well. For if there was no Jewish temple as UNESCO insinuates, then Jesus could never have set foot there as detailed in scripture.

Pastor Mario Bramnick, president of the Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition (HILC), said his organization “condemns UNESCO’s decision which denies the historical Jewish and Christian connection to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.”

Pastor Bramnick told Fuente Latina, a US non-profit working with Hispanic media covering Israel and the Mideast, that “Jerusalem and the Temple Mount were originally under Jewish control. … Jesus taught, prayed and performed miracles in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount during the time of the Second Temple.”

In case you missed it, UNESCO’s recently green-lighted resolution, called “Occupied Palestine,” names holy sites, including the location where the Jewish temples stood in biblical times, by their Islamic names only. The resolution puts the Jewish names in inverted commas, which questions their authenticity. And this is by the body created by the UN in part to advance understanding between cultures.

The draft resolution, sponsored by several Arab countries, was of course not the first time that Palestinians and others have exploited the UN to taint Israel’s image. But this time the move hit Jews and Christians around the world on a deeper level than before, as Jerusalem and its holy sites are at the heart of both faiths.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dubbed the resolution “absurd,” and later tweeted: “What’s next? A UNESCO decision denying the connection between peanut butter and jelly? Batman and Robin? Rock and roll?”

Similar, if more restrained, reactions came from many communities around the world.

But the resolution was mostly met with apathy in Latin America. Brazil, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua all historically have good relations with Israel, and they all have very large Christian populations. However, in 2010, Nicaragua suspended ties with Israel.

Although governments in those countries mostly remained passive or complicit, both Christians and Jews in the Spanish-speaking world are expressing their outrage over the vote and demanding answers from their representatives.

For example, a Spanish-language social media movement, #SomosIsrael (We are Israel), initiated by Hispanic Christians, took to Twitter the night the resolution was signed and became a top trending topic in several Latin American countries, generating more than five million impressions in one day alone.

The united voices show support for Israel and outrage over the rewriting of history, and demand that Latin American countries reconsider their position.

Mexico has since changed its stance, withdrawing support for the UNESCO resolution, and changed its vote to an abstention. Brazil expressed reservations about the language of the resolution, but did not change its official position. Unfortunately, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua did not follow suit.

Despite protests, the controversial resolution was adopted by UNESCO’s Executive Committee.

Leah Soibel is founder and CEO of Fuente Latina, a U.S. non-profit, non-governmental organization that removes geographic and linguistic barriers for global Spanish language media covering stories about Israel and the Mideast. With offices in Jerusalem, Madrid, and Miami, FL is the only organization of its kind engaging international Latino media in their language and in real time. Visit or follow us on Twitter @fuentelatina.

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