Dome of Rock tops CNN list of sites on ‘verge of extinction’; no place for Palmyra

Jerusalem holy place at No. 1 on ‘Last chance to see’ list. Syrian city, whose iconic 2,000-year-old lion was smashed last week, misses out

The Dome of the Rock as featured in CNN's 'Last chance to see' article, July 2015
The Dome of the Rock as featured in CNN's 'Last chance to see' article, July 2015

CNN prompted criticism by placing the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem’s Old City at the top of a list it headlined “Last chance to see: 25 magnificent structures on the verge of extinction.”

The article said the holy site headed the list because “no other site has spent more time on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger” than the Old City.

“A holy city for three different religions, it attracts millions of tourist with over 200 monuments, including the majestic Dome of the Rock. But political tension has hardened relations between Israel and UNESCO, preventing any preservation plans from moving forward,” CNN wrote in its feature.

The CNN list did not cite a specific or immediate threat to the Old City in general or the 6th century Dome of the Rock in particular.

UNESCO’s list of sites in danger indeed notes that the “Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls” was proposed for inclusion by Jordan in 1982, the earliest date of any of the 48 sites on the current UNESCO list. (This was 15 years after Israel captured the Old City from Jordan in the 1967 war and 12 years before Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty.)

The site that has the spent the second-longest period on the UNESCO “Danger” roster, Peru’s Chan Chan Archaeological Zone (on the list since 1986), does not appear in the CNN top 25 rankings.

A wall at Peru's Chan Chan (Håkan Svensson / Wikipedia)
A wall at Peru’s Chan Chan (Håkan Svensson / Wikipedia)

Published on Wednesday, the top 25 list also did not include the ancient UNESCO World Heritage site of Palmyra in Syria, where, on Thursday, Syria’s antiquities director reported that Islamic State militants had destroyed an irreplaceable 2,000-year-old lion statue, among other acts of destruction.

Lion in the garden of Palmyra Archeological Museum (Wikipedia)
The 2,000-year-old lion in the garden of Palmyra Archeological Museum, said destroyed by Islamic State militants on July 2, 2015 (Wikipedia)

The media watchdog site Honest Reporting condemned placing the Dome of the Rock on the list, saying it is not under threat of extinction.

“CNN was under no obligation to buy into this outrageous nonsense, particularly as the Old City is probably the most protected heritage site in the Middle East,” Honest Reporting said in a statement. “All religious sites are protected by law and freedom of religion. Even the most disputed of those, the Temple Mount, is under the control of the Muslim Waqf under an agreement to maintain the status quo.

“In fact, the biggest threat to the heritage of the Old City is from the Palestinians themselves who have carried out unsupervised excavations on the Temple Mount, destroying many priceless antiquities in the process.”

No. 2 on the CNN list is the ancient city of Petra in Jordan. The United States had two sites: the Union Terminal in Cincinnati, Ohio, at No. 9, and the Portland Public Services Building in Oregon, at No. 24.

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