Israel Objects as UNESCO Names Yericho Site a “Palestinian Heritage Site”

Tel a-Sultan archaeological near Yericho, (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

The Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has officially added Tel a-Sultan in Yericho to its list of global heritage sites, designating it as a “Palestinian world heritage site.” The decision was reached through a vote held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with UNESCO member states participating. The UN clarified that while Jewish and Christian sites near the area were not included in the list, they hold cultural value worth preserving.

Tel a-Sultan, also known as Tel Yericho, is the central archaeological mound in Yericho, rising 21 meters above its surroundings and covering an area of 40 dunams. It contains numerous archaeological discoveries, including the round tower of Yericho, measuring 8.50 meters in width, with remaining portions standing at 7.70 meters in height.

Israel’s foreign ministry released a statement that said the listing was a “cynical” ploy by the Palestinians to politicize UNESCO, and that Israel will work with its allies to reverse what it says are the organization’s “distorted” decisions.

Israel quit UNESCO in 2019, accusing it of being biased against it and of diminishing its connection to the Holy Land. Israel also objected to UNESCO’s acceptance of Palestine as a member state in 2011. But Israel remains a party to the World Heritage Convention, and it sent a delegation to the meeting in Riyadh.

Paris-based UNESCO began the World Heritage List in 1978. It includes a broad array of over 1,000 sites — from the Acropolis in Athens to the Great Wall of China — nominated by their respective nations.

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