UNESCO to vote on Ancient Jericho joining World Heritage list as site in Palestine

UN body, which Israel quit in 2019, to hold vote at Saudi Arabia conference; Likud MK accuses cultural organization of obscuring site’s biblical significance

Tell es-Sultan in Jericho on September 29, 2011 (Diego Delso via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA)
Tell es-Sultan in Jericho on September 29, 2011 (Diego Delso via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA)

The United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is set to vote on a proposal later this month that would see Ancient Jericho declared as a “World Heritage Site in Palestine.”

According to the agenda for the vote at the UN body’s conference in Saudi Arabia, “Ancient Jericho/Tell es-Sultan” could be declared as a cultural site during a event, September 10-25.

If the vote passes, the ancient city will join three other “UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Palestine”: the Church of the Nativity and the pilgrimage route in Bethlehem, the cultural landscape of southern Jerusalem and Battir, and the Old City in Hebron.

Likud MK Dan Illouz wrote on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, that he had written to UNESCO head Audrey Azoulay.

“Jericho is first and foremost a city of Biblical significance,” Illouz said.

“Blurring this fact is an insult to the millions of Jews and Christians all over the world,” he said in a statement.

“Such a decision would constitute a blatant interference by UNESCO in a conflict in which it is not its role to intervene,” Illouz charged. “It is our duty to stop the Palestinian Authority’s subversion, and insist on our right to our land.”

File: A photo shows the UNESCO logo during a speech by its director-general to announce the United States’ request to return to the institution, at the organization’s headquarters in Paris, France, on June 12, 2023. (Alain Jocard/AFP)

However, Israel is no longer a member of UNESCO.

A 2011 move by UNESCO to include Palestine as a member state led the US and Israel to cease financing the agency.

In 2017, the United States under then-president Donald Trump announced that it was withdrawing from UNESCO, citing financial considerations, the need for reform and the organization’s “continuing anti-Israel bias.”

Israel also said that it was leaving the UN body. The 2019 exit by the two nations came after years of the agency passing resolutions that critics said denied the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and other revered locations, and singled out the Jewish state for criticism.

The United States announced its intention to rejoin UNESCO in June, and the organization’s 193 member states voted in July to approve the US reentry.

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