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UNESCO can't be allowed to deny Jewish link to Temple Mount
By Josh Block, contributor
October 19, 2016
Last week, the United Nation’s premier global cultural and scientific organization inflicted a wound upon millions of Jews, and many more millions of Christians, by adopting a viciously-worded resolution sponsored by Arab states that reclassifies the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem's Old City solely as an Islamic holy site, "Al Haram Al Sharif."
In response, Israel suspended its ties with UNESCO and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu justly criticized the decision:
"To say that Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall is like saying that China has no connection to the Great Wall of China or that Egypt has no connection to the Pyramids. By this absurd decision, UNESCO has lost what little legitimacy it has left."
When the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO sits down in Paris next week, it will have the opportunity to revisit the question of the Temple’s Mount’s heritage. In doing so, UNESCO should realize the global magnitude of its decision.
At stake is more than the reputation of the UN's. Ultimately, the issue is whether we allow an unaccountable international bureaucracy to attack Israel by fabricating history, replacing fact with falsehood, and denying the legitimacy of the foundations of Judaism and Christianity.
In the holy scriptures of the Jews and Christians, the Jewish Temple, which twice stood and was twice destroyed on this very same site, is the ultimate expression of Israel's faith in God. It is the place where the glories of King Solomon and the defiance of the Maccabees came to life, among whose columns Jesus walked and preached, a site housing spectacles of great joy but also, on the occasions of its destruction, inconsolable lamentation.
That is why, two thousand years later, references to Jerusalem, the Temple and Zion still fill Jewish prayers, not to mention a fair few Christian hymns.
So thoroughly did the Romans ransack the ancient Jewish Temple — the results of which are etched upon that other fabricated global heritage site, the Arch of Titus in Rome — that only its outer, western wall, known to Jews as the Kotel, remained.
UNESCO is now treading on that small remnant left behind by the armies of the Emperor Vespasian, unashamedly renaming the Kotel as the "Al-Bouraq Wall," where the Prophet Muhammed is said by the Muslim faith to have chained his horse upon entering Jerusalem.
No Jewish or Christian leader of note has ever denied the significance of Jerusalem to Islam. At the same time, the city existed for at least one thousand years before the advent of Islam, and was the site of key events that shaped Jewish and Christian beliefs.
It is this history which UNESCO seeks to erase — and with it the history, faith and identity shared by Jews and Christians, and underscored as authentic by legions of historians and archeologists.
It is still within the power of UNESCO to redeem itself when its World Heritage Committee meets in Paris on October 24-26.
Already, there are small yet encouraging signs of regret about the resolution. UNESCO's own Director General has criticized it, Mexico has changed its support for the resolution to an abstention, and there is talk of Brazil doing the same.
Of the 21 states on the committee, some, like Poland and Korea, are home to large numbers of devoutly Christian believers, others such as Indonesia and The Philippines are home to Christians and Muslims, while still others, like Lebanon and Kuwait, are commonly regarded as moderate and diplomatically thoughtful Arab states.
Do they honestly believe that Jews have no ties to the holy sites in Jerusalem, or that Israel, which has retained and protected the integrity of all of Jerusalem's holy sites for nearly 50 years, is actually a threat to their survival?
These countries are being asked to vote in favor of a resolution that makes a mockery of the historical record and flies in the face of religious tolerance. If UNESCO's World Heritage Committee won't do the right thing when faced with a challenge like this one, then perhaps it'll be time for the U.S. and all democratic countries to follow Israel's example, and reevaluate their ties with the agency.