On October 13, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, passed a very controversial statement regarding the status of holy sites in Jerusalem. They called for the Temple Mount to be called exclusively by its Muslim referenced name. It even called for the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, to be referred to by a Muslim name. It essentially erased any Jewish (or Christian, for that matter) connection to these sites.
The action taken by UNESCO obviously flies in the face of a 3,000-year connection between the Jewish people and the locations in question. It creates a revisionist history where Jews are rootless and interlopers in Israel, despite unquestioned and immense archeological evidence from the first and second temple periods.
It was a blatantly biased and political decision, based not on history and culture, but on Mideast political considerations at the United Nations, where Palestinian interests have a clear majority. This resolution was so bad, even the director of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, sharply criticized it, and her criticism generated death threats, which forced her to increase her personal security detail.
We join Jewish and Christian communities worldwide in condemning this blatantly false and provocative classification of the holy sites in Jerusalem.
The government of Israel was quick to condemn this, and these condemnations came from both the left wing and the right wing. The Prime Minister said, with justification, that denying the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and Western Wall is like denying an Egyptian connection to the pyramids. Jewish organizations of all political stripes are also condemning this action.
Besides the fact that this statement from UNESCO is factually preposterous, it further entrenches the positions of those in Israel (and elsewhere) who believe that the main obstacle to peace is a denial by the Palestinians of the right of a Jewish state to exist at all.
By attempting to erase history, the Palestinians have handed a gift to Israeli leaders who are most skeptical about a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Already some leaders are calling for retaliatory actions such as allowing Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount (which violates a status quo which has kept peace generally), restricting Muslim prayer there and increasing settlement activity to create facts on the ground.
This statement also emboldens those Palestinians who reject any peace deal. Hamas, the terror organization that rules Gaza said that they “consider this a victory to the Palestinian cause and a destruction of the Israeli narrative regarding Al-Aqsa!”
The United Nations and its constituent agencies and NGOs need to be in the business of uniting people in conflict, not giving justification for hardliners on both sides of the conflict to further entrench.
Classifying it as exclusively for one faith and erasing the Jewish connection will only lead to further conflict over these sites instead of the compromise necessary in a final peace deal. I hope cooler heads prevail and compromise soon becomes the mantra of all those involved.
Editor’s note: As Community was going to press, UNESCO passed a second resolution, “The Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls,” which deletes Jewish references from holy sites in Jerusalem.
The Importance of Voting
As election season draws to a close, I have come to the conclusion that everyone has a strong opinion about this year’s election. I no longer need to read the news to find out the latest on the current candidates, I just need to go to my Facebook page and Twitter feed. Everyone seems to have a strong opinion, from left to right, and to have no inhibitions on expressing their views. I have seen many disagreements between people, screaming matches over social media, over this election … signifying how important this election is to so many people.
But really, the best way to express our opinions on who should be our elected representatives is to GO VOTE!! The majority of countries around the world are not democracies and the populace has very little say as to who makes decisions that affect their lives. The arbitrary way in which these countries are run makes me grateful I live in such a wonderful country where my opinion matters and my voting decisions have consequences.
However, the number of eligible voters who actually make the effort to go vote is staggeringly low. It is easier than ever to register – it’s automatic when we apply for a driver’s license. But if we do not exercise this right, we are hypocritical when we complain about whom we elect to office.
Here in Kentucky, some recent elections saw as little as 30 percent of eligible voters actually go vote. That is awful.
This year, we elect a new president (in addition to all the other offices that are very important) and the issues that he or she will deal with – healthcare, minimum wage, Supreme Court picks, war in the Middle East – are too important for us to be complacent.
GO VOTE on November 8. If you cannot make it to the polls that day, apply for an absentee ballot (there is still time). If you have no transportation to the polls, Jewish Family and Career Services has volunteers ready to talk you.
Electing someone for office is the greatest expression of h™ow we feel about candidates (even better than a Facebook rant). GO VOTE!