UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is once again set to question the historic Jewish ties to the Holy Temple, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, adopting an Arab-sponsored draft resolution that avoids mention of even the Jewish names for these sites, much less identifying the Temple Mount as the holiest site in Judaism.
The Jordanian-Palestinian draft text on the Old City of Jerusalem was submitted to the 21-member World Heritage Committee, which meets over the next 10 days in Istanbul, Turkey, for its 40th annual season, according to U.N. Watch, an independent, Geneva-based watchdog organization. This draft is still more troubling than resolutions approved last year and this April.
U.N. Watch notes that UNESCO condemns Israel 10 or more times in the average year, without condemning any other country even a single time. Even by comparison to the U.N. Human Rights Council, which has an annual standing agenda item to condemn Israel, and the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, which singled out only Israel for condemnation (concerning “the grave situation of Palestinian women”), U.N. Watch says that UNESCO “may be the most anti-Israel of all U.N. agencies.”
The 21 members on the UNESCO world heritage committee are Angola, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Cuba, Finland, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
Ten times, the draft refers to the Temple Mount as “Al Haram Al Sharif.” It refers three times to Buraq Plaza, while putting “Western Wall Plaza” into scare quotes (last year, that name was placed in parentheses). Israel, created by Jews indigenous to their homeland, is referred to throughout as “the Occupying Power” and is called upon to restore “the historic Status Quo.”
“I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet” (Amos 7:14), so I cannot hope to explain why the Kosel is the recipient of such attention, intended to deny its true heritage, its eternal connection to the Jewish people.
But the Gemara tells us the following: “From where do we know to make a remembrance for the Mikdash? The passuk (Yirmiyahu 30:17) says: ‘For I will make a cure for you, and from your wounds I will heal you, says Hashem, for they called you “discarded one.” She is Tzion, ayn doresh lah, there is none who seeks her.’
“It is implied that she (Tzion, the Mikdash) requires seeking.” (Rosh Hashanah 30a)
Who, today, is seeking the Holy Kosel? Any neutral observer would say that the American Reform and Conservative movements are the ones seeking the Holy Mikdash, attempting to make it their own. They are attempting to add an “equal” section, one larger than the entire women’s section of the traditional plaza, for their use — under their supervision, with mixed prayer services and with a “joint entrance” to promote the idea that these liberal deviations are recognized at the Western Wall as equivalent to Torah Judaism. Were this to happen, the chillul Mekom HaMikdash would be immense.
To my knowledge, not one American Orthodox organization has yet so much as issued a press release in support of kedushas Mekom HaMikdash! None have written letters of protest to the Israeli government, met with the Israeli ambassador to the United States to express our opposition, or sent an emergency mission to Israel to lobby.
Why have we not yet held a yom tefillah to express our pain, the pain we should feel at this chillul Hashem?
When we visit, we must treat the Kosel with the respect it deserves — meaning turning our cell phones off, avoiding idle chatter, and recognizing where we are and what the Kosel represents.
When we talk to our Rabbis, Rebbes and Roshei Yeshivah, we should be asking what we can do to show that we are indeed seeking Tzion v’Yerushalayim.
We must write to our senators and congressmen to protest UNESCO’s gross distortion of history, and to express our permanent connection to the Mekom Hamikdash.
Perhaps, during the upcoming period of the Three Weeks, starting with the fast of Shivah Asar B’Tammuz and ending with the fast of Tishah B’Av, we should spend some time learning about Yerushalayim and the Mikdash, so as to better understand what we have lost, and for what we still mourn.
In the zechus of our efforts on behalf of Yerushalayim and the Kosel, may we merit to see the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash, speedily in our day.