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After UNESCO resolution, minister urges mass Western Wall prayer service

Large turnout at Wednesday’s priestly blessing would show UN it ‘can’t separate Jews from Jewish holy sites,’ says Aryeh Deri

Jewish worshipers cover themselves with prayer shawls as they pray in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City during the priestly blessing which commemorates the Israelites' hasty departure from Egypt. April 6, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Jewish worshipers cover themselves with prayer shawls as they pray in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City during the priestly blessing which commemorates the Israelites' hasty departure from Egypt. April 6, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) on Sunday called on all Israeli Jews to converge on the Western Wall on Wednesday to send a message to the United Nations’ cultural arm, UNESCO, that the Jewish people will never be separated from its holy sites.

The minister urged Jews to attend, en masse, the annual priestly blessing during the Sukkot holiday in defiance of a controversial resolution passed by UNESCO’s member states last week that ignored Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and Western Wall.

“This year, we’ll come, in our masses, to Jerusalem, to the Western Wall, to the Priestly Blessing. This Wednesday, the second day of [the intermediate festival days] Hol Hamoed, we’ll all be there. We’ll send a clear message — nobody will separate us from our holy places,” wrote Deri in a Facebook post.

In his post, the minister invoked the Biblical command to go up to the city during Sukkot (Feast of the Tabernacles), which this year starts Sunday night, and notes the newer tradition of reciting the Priestly Blessing en masse at the Western Wall [twice a year, on the festivals of Passover and Sukkot], made possible since Israel captured the Old City of Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 Six Day War.

The UNESCO resolution, proposed by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan, and adopted last week at the committee stage, used only Muslim names for the holy sites of Jerusalem’s Old City and was harshly critical of Israel for what it termed “provocative abuses that violate the sanctity and integrity” of the area. The resolution drew angry condemnation from Israeli politicians from across the political spectrum.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office, Jerusalem, July 17, 2016. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office, Jerusalem, July 17, 2016. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

Russia was among 25 countries to vote in favor of the resolution. Voting against were Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands,the UK and the US. France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Sweden were among those that abstained.

The Western Wall is a small section of a much larger retaining wall supporting a plaza on which the two ancient Jewish Temples once stood. Above it is the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, which houses the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest shrine in Islam.

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