Messianic Judaism

PA Demands UNESCO Make Cave of the Patriarchs a Palestinian World Heritage Site

IDF soldier stands guard in Hebron

The PA is demanding that UNESCO register the Cave of the Patriarchs, Judaism’s second-holiest spot, as a Palestinian World Heritage site,

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is requesting that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee, whose annual meeting is scheduled for July 1 in Krakow, Poland, register the Old City of Hebron—including the Cave of the Patriarchs—as a Palestinian World Heritage Site, Israel’s Yediot Ahronot reported.

As clarified by AICE-Jewish Virtual Library, “the Cave of Machpelah is the world’s most ancient Jewish site and the second holiest place for the Jewish people, after the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Cave and the adjoining field were purchased—at full market price—by Abraham some 3700 years ago. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah were all later buried in the same Cave of Machpelah. These are considered the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people. The only one who is missing is Rachel, who was buried near Bethlehem where she died in childbirth.”

The ongoing attempt by the PA to reject the ancient Jewish ties to the Land of Israel, including the Old City of Jerusalem and Hebron, has achieved some success with UNESCO. In October 2015, for instance, Israel condemned a UNESCO resolution that declares holy Jewish sites as Muslim. In April 2016, UNESCO adopted a resolution that ignored Jewish historical ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

As for the Cave of the Patriarchs – according to the Yediot article, translated by Ynet News – the PA claims the site is in danger of destruction by the “occupying force,” alleging that Israel had carried out an exceptionally large concrete casting at the site, while Israel maintains that it is only a small addition to the site, coordinated with the Jerusalem Islamic Trust.

The Israeli delegation to UNESCO, headed by Ambassador Carmel Shama-Hacohen, has already begun making efforts to stop the PA’s plans about a month ago.

“This is a clear continuation of the attacks and hallucinatory outrageous votes in UNESCO regarding Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall,” stated Shama-Hacohen, head of the Israeli delegation to UNESCO. “Israel respects Muslim sensibilities and ensures freedom of worship, order, security, routine maintenance, and the development of infrastructure supporting the holy sites.”

The delegation, joined by Israeli ambassadors of member states, is fighting the PA initiative. “Given the sensitivity of the issue, it appears that the prime minister will be required to address the matter personally. In order to prevent the inscription, Israel must mobilize at least one-third of the voting countries in its favor—an almost impossible task. If the decision is made, the Palestinians will be able to claim that the control over the site should be transferred to them, which will bring international pressure on Israel,” Yediot explains.

Palestinian Muslim rioters frequently damage the sites they claim as their own, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and the Cave of the Patriarchs.

Hebron’s Modern Jewish History

Hebron is the second-holiest city, second to Jerusalem. King David made Hebron the first capital of the Jewish people, before moving the capital to Jerusalem.

There has been a continued Jewish presence in Hebron over the centuries.

During the 1929 Hebron massacre, 67 Jews were killed by Arab rioters, and many incidents of rape, mutilation, and torture were reported. As a result, the Jewish community of 750 people was disbanded. In 1931, 160 Jews returned to the town, but the British government decided to move all Jews out of Hebron “to prevent another massacre.”

At the beginning of the 1948 War of Independence, Egypt occupied Hebron. By late 1948, Jordanian soldiers established a presence in Hebron. With the signing of the Armistice agreements, the city fell exclusively under Jordanian control. In 1950, the city was unilaterally incorporated into Jordan. During the Six Day War, the IDF liberated Hebron.

In 1968, a group of Jewish “settlers,” led by Rabbi Moshe Levinger, rented out the main hotel in Hebron – and refused to leave, culminating in the rebuilding of a strong Jewish presence in the city.

By: United with Israel Staff

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