A key United Nations agency is under fire–for declaring that Judaism’s holiest site in Jerusalem shouldn’t be considered a part of Jewish heritage, and should instead be considered part of a nearby Islamic mosque.
The United Nation’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) ruled that Jerusalem’s famed Western Wall–which is one of the most holy sites in all of Judaism, but also a major site in Islam–is part of the al-Aqsa Mosque.
Israeli Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama Hacohen immediately slammed the resolution, calling it “a total Islamization” of a site that’s important to both religions.
Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs added, in a statement: “This is a clear endeavor to distort history, in order to erase the connection between the Jewish People and its holiest site, and to create a false reality.”
Even Israel’s President Benjamin Netanyahu joined the fray: “If the places where the Jewish nation’s forefathers and mothers–Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel–were buried 4,000 years ago is not part of the Jewish nation’s heritage, then what is a heritage site?”
UNESCO’s five-page draft resolution was written by Muslim powers like Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Kuwait, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (which is not fully recognized as a country by the UN.) It makes no mention of the site being a Jewish holy site, dating back thousands of years. But it does condemn Israel’s recent military actions in Palestinian-claimed territories like the West Bank and Gaza. It refers to Israel as “Israel, the Occupying Power.”
Currently, the Western Wall is overseen by an Islamic trust called the Waqf. Jews, by religious decree, are not allowed to pray at the Muslim-controlled Jewish holy site, Temple Mount; the Western Wall is the closest they’re allowed to get.
But, under the new UNESCO rules, even that could be scrapped.
The line assigning the Western Wall to Islam is only one sentence in the larger document–but it could threaten the entire resolution, which is now expected not to pass.