UNESCO head calls Temple Mount ‘holiest place in Judaism’
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UNESCO head calls Temple Mount ‘holiest place in Judaism’

In address to World Jewish Congress, Irina Bokova defends links of all three monotheistic religions to Jerusalem

UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova addresses the World Jewish Congress' 15th Plenary Assembly in New York on April 24, 2017. (Shahar Azran)
UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova addresses the World Jewish Congress' 15th Plenary Assembly in New York on April 24, 2017. (Shahar Azran)

The head of the United Nations’ cultural body UNESCO defended Jewish links to holy sites in Jerusalem on Monday, criticizing her own agency’s governing board for passing a series of resolutions that downplay or deny any Jewish connection to its most sacred spaces.

Irina Bokova, head of the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, called the Temple Mount the “holiest place in Judaism,” during a Monday address in from of the World Jewish Congress in New York.

“The Al Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram al-Sharif, the sacred shrine of the Muslims, is also the Har Habayit – or Temple Mount – the holiest place in Judaism, whose Western Wall is revered by millions across the world, a few steps away from the Saint Sepulchre and the Mount of Olives holy to the Christians,” she said.

Defending the links of all three monotheistic religions to Jerusalem, Bokova told delegates that “to deny, conceal, or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions runs counter to the reasons that justified its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list.”

Last October UNESCO passed a resolution sponsored by Arab states that ignored Jewish and Christian historical ties to Jerusalem holy sites, sparking an outcry in Israel.

Aerial view of the Temple Mount (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Aerial view of the Temple Mount (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Bokova subsequently criticized the agency saying, “The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities has a right to the explicit recognition of their history and relationship with the city.”

Israel and the United States suspended their funding to the committee in 2011 after the Palestinians were admitted as members. Both countries lost their voting rights as a result, which has made the passage of anti-Israel resolutions more straightforward.

Also in her address, Bokova launched a new policy guide for educators focused on the teaching of the Holocaust, genocide and mass atrocities.

“We must empower future generations with the lessons from the Holocaust, equip our children and grandchildren with the tools they need to vanquish intolerance and hate, bigotry and anti-Semitism, racism and prejudice,” she said.

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