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Fury as Unesco denies Jewish connection to Judaism’s holiest sites

    The Western Wall, with the Temple Mount behind (Credit: Flickr/Desired)
    The Western Wall, with the Temple Mount behind (Credit: Flickr/Desired)

    A Unesco resolution denying the historic connection of the Jewish people to Temple Mount has drawn harsh criticism from across Israel.

    Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who also serves as president of the Israeli Committee to UNESCO, has effectively suspended Israel's membership of the UN organisation. He said that he will be advising committee members not to meet with officials of the agency, attend international conferences or undertake any professional cooperation with the organization.

    What's next? A UNESCO decision denying the connection between peanut butter and jelly? Batman and Robin? Rock and roll?

    “We can understand criticism, but you cannot change history. - Reuven Rivlin

    The site is named only by its Arabic name, Haram al-Sharif, rather than in Hebrew or English.

    The Western Wall plaza is initially only given its Islamic name, al-Buraq plaza. The site’s Hebrew name, Hakotel Hama'aravi, is only mentioned later, in quotation marks.

    Twenty-four nations voted for the resolution, 26 nations abstained and two were completely absent, while six – the United States, Great Britain, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Germany and Estonia – voted against.

    MK Isaac Herzog, the Leader of Israel’s Opposition, said: "Unesco betray their mission, and give a bad name to diplomacy and the international institutions.

    “Whoever wants to rewrite history, to distort facts, and to completely invent the fantasy that the Western Wall and Temple Mount have no connection to the Jewish people, is telling a terrible lie that only serves to increase hatred."

    Reuven Rivlin, President of Israel, said: “No forum or body in the world can come and deny the connection between the Jewish people, the Land of Israel and Jerusalem; and any such body that does so simply embarrasses itself.

    “We can understand criticism, but you cannot change history."

    Speaking in a House of Lords debate on Israel on Thursday afternoon, Lord Rabbi Sacks described the Unesco vote as "an outrage, and will achieve nothing but to further damage trust and set back prospects for peace."

    Rabbi Josh Levy, Co-Chair of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK, said: "There is a strong historical Jewish connection to what we call the Western Wall and Temple Mount, just as there is a strong Muslim connection to the Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif.

    "Using this holy site as a political football is not helpful for the cause of peace; doing so fuels extremist voices on all sides of the conflict. A peaceful solution must include recognition of our shared connections to these holy places.”

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