The UNESCO decision to list the old city of Chevron as a Palestinian heritage site, after a resolution earlier in the week denying the ancient Jewish connection to Yerushalayim, has outraged opinion in Israel, the United States and Jewish communities around the world.
These votes were not unexpected; they were on the official UNESCO agenda, and lobbying by Israel and the U.S. had been going on for weeks to at least mitigate, if not block, the decisions. Thanks to those diplomatic efforts, the vote on Yerushalayim was less lopsided than in the past; but we were not surprised at the passage of either.
It raises the question nevertheless: How is it possible? How is it possible to deny universally known historic fact?
The Torah is most sparing in its language in many major points of law and philosophy, sometimes sufficing with the barest allusion. Whereas here it offers copious detail in telling of Avraham Avinu’s purchase of Me’aras Hamachpelah.
There are many levels of meaning to every passage of the Torah, and this one is no exception. But surely at least one of the reasons for the elaborate description of the purchase, including location of the property, the names of the owners, the negotiations of the sale and the final agreed-upon price, is to dispel any doubt about its rightful owner.
In addition, it is referred to repeatedly in Tanach, 87 times, as a Jewish possession, the inheritance of Kalev ben Yefuneh, and the place where Dovid Hamelech was anointed.
Furthermore, as the Torah stipulates, the transaction was conducted in the presence of all the Bnei Cheis. They were witnesses to it, notes the Abarbanel. It was not a private business matter between Avraham and Efron; it was a public event. And whatever the venal interest of Efron, the Bnei Cheis regarded it as an honor that Avraham, whom they addressed as Nasi Elokim, the prince of G-d, would be a property-holder in their city.
And it was recorded in the Torah as “the field that Avraham bought,” so that no one could ever come and deny that this holy burial place of the Avos and Imahos belongs to us.
Until, that is, the arrival of the Palestinians and the Arabs at UNESCO. They, who have sought to drive the Jewish people out of Eretz Yisrael for decades, both through brutal violence and through lies and defamations, deny once again the plain fact of the Torah narrative, which has been known and accepted for centuries.
But for them, such behavior is only consistent. For the very premise of a Palestinian people is in utter disregard of history. It was a fiction invented to press their case against the promised return of the Jewish people to our homeland in international forums. The “Palestinian people” were unheard of before the PLO came into being. They did not appear in history books, were not accorded status at U.N. agencies; in short, did not exist, apart from their belonging to other Arab nations in the region.
What will come of this latest aggression of the Palestinians against historical truth, this latest “affront to history,” as Nikki Haley called it?
The only material consequence of the UNESCO decision to place Chevron on the endangered list is that an annual report of its status will be required. This, of course, will provide additional propaganda opportunities for the Palestinians, but it will not affect Israeli control over the Jewish holy places.
Not that the sites are in any danger from Israel, as the Palestinians allege. This is a malicious fabrication. Indeed, historically the opposite has been true. While in Jordanian hands between 1948 and 1967, the proud protectors of Muslim holy places were completely indifferent to Jewish sensitivities, and engaged in gross disrespect and egregious trampling on the rights of Jews to visit their holiest places.
While Jordan controlled Chevron during the same period, Jews were banned from the city, and in violation of the Armistice Agreement, forbidden to visit or pray at the Jewish holy places there.
At that time, there was real, not imaginary, danger to heritage sites, Jewish ones. They undertook a systematic campaign to eliminate any evidence of a Jewish Chevron. They tore down the Jewish Quarter, desecrated the Jewish cemetery and built an animal pen on the ruins of the Avraham Avinu synagogue.
Under the mandate of preserving world heritage, UNESCO is falsifying and destroying world heritage. Their concern is obviously not with world heritage, but with Palestinian aggrandizement at the expense of the Jewish people.
Our heritage has withstood the onslaught of our enemies for thousands of years. We do not need UNESCO to preserve that heritage; nor do we fear that UNESCO will steal it away from us.
That which is inscribed in the Torah cannot be repealed or effaced. No matter what UNESCO says.