Thank God, it’s over. When 2018 ended, Israel’s withdrawal from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization took effect.
Don’t feel bad. Under existing conditions, there was no reason to keep our place at the table with the gang of hypocritical liars that every few months rewrote another chapter of the history of the land of Israel and the Jewish people, and co-opted it for the Palestinians. Rather than thrilling at the glorious cultural, religious, historic and archaeological legacy of the Jewish people in the land of Israel, the organization chose time and again to adopt “fake history” and give its seal of approval to more fabrications from the Palestinian pack of lies.
UNESCO questioned Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. It treated us as if we were occupiers in our own capital, even though Jerusalem in all its holiness was never a capital—in terms of either politics or conscience—for any Arab or Muslim ruling entity. Even the Jordanians, who together with the Palestinians prompted UNESCO to pass resolutions hostile to Israel, never used Jerusalem as their capital in the years in which they occupied the city.
They desecrated places that are holy to Jews, and in violation of agreements we signed with them even denied us access to those places. Back then, the Jordanians and the Palestinians—before they invented themselves as a “people”—cited the Temple Mount as the location of Solomon’s Temple on their maps and in their writings.
Today, they boldly deny ever doing so, and UNESCO is helping them by partly adopting their denial.
But UNESCO has more than Jerusalem in its sights. Rachel’s Tomb, which UNESCO decided to call, as the Palestinians term it, Bilal Ibn Rabah mosque, was never traditionally called that. Ibn Rabah, of Ethiopian descent, was one of the first muezzins who served the Prophet Muhammad. He was killed in Syria and buried in Aleppo or Damascus. Only when the Palestinian Authority realized it had failed to capture the site from Israel during the Second Intifada did they link Ibn Rabah to “Kubat Rachel,” the Arabic name for the site that had been used for generations. In the case of Rachel’s Tomb, UNESCO supported an attempt to take over people’s minds in place of a physical occupation of the site which failed.
The Palestinians also biased UNESCO on everything having to do with the Cave of the Patriarchs. The cave, which Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite, was long ago stolen from us by Muslims. The fact that the two religions co-own it today is a generous compromise we forced the Muslims to accept about 50 years ago. Israel, with help from the forces of history, rectified a few colossal absurdities that the Muslims thought would remain in place forever. The Palestinians appealed to UNESCO so that at least as far as people’s thinking went, they could regain full ownership of the Cave of the Patriarchs, and UNESCO helped them with that as well.
With each delusional resolution, UNESCO made itself more ridiculous and less relevant. But every cloud has a silver lining.
Despite the total absurdity of the organization’s decisions, they carried one main advantage for Israel—they held up a mirror. They forced us to go back to our roots, to study them, to delve into them and understand that we are not passersby in this land. We weren’t just born here, and we didn’t just move here. The UNESCO resolutions helped us reach the vital recognition that the land of Israel is not just a haven, it’s also a destination; that its many holy sites are the cradle of our people’s birth and still correspond to our present and our future here, which rests on more than “security needs.”
Now, without UNESCO, we’ll need to remind ourselves of that from time to time.
Nadav Shragai is a veteran Israeli journalist.
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