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UNESCO director criticizes resolution: Temple Mount sacred to Jews, Muslims


UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova

UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova on Friday came out against the agency's executive board for adopting a resolution that disregards the connection between Judaism and Temple Mount and casts doubt over the link between the religion and the Western Wall.

"The Al Aqsa Mosque [or] Al-Haram al-Sharif, the sacred shrine of Muslims, is also the Har HaBayit-or Temple Mount-whose Western Wall is the holiest place in Judaism," Bokova said in a statement.

The Executive Board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization voted to adopt an anti-Israel resolution on Thursday.

"Jerusalem is the sacred city of the three monotheistic religions-Judaism, Christianity and Islam," Bokova said in Friday's statement. "It is in recognition of this exceptional diversity, and this cultural and religious coexistence, that it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list."

"...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. To deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site."

Bokova noted that Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy texts offer testimony as to their presence in Jerusalem.

"In the Torah, Jerusalem is the capital of King David, where Solomon built the Temple and placed the Ark of the Covenant," she said. "In the Bible, Jerusalem is the city of the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the [Koran], Jerusalem is the third holiest site in Islam, where Muhammad arrived after his night journey from Al Haram Mosq (Mecca) to Al-Aqsa.

"Different peoples worship the same places, sometimes under different names," she said. "The recognition, use of and respect for these names is paramount."

UNESCO's director-general further asserted that the agency's role is to promote dialogue and co-existence, not confrontation.   

"We have to bridge the divisions that harm the multi-faith character of the Old City," Bokova said. "When these divisions carry over into UNESCO, they prevent us from carrying out our mission. UNESCO's responsibility is to foster this spirit of tolerance and respect for history."

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Bokova's statement "is insufficient."

"The tailwind UNESCO gives to terrorism will only stop once the organization annuls the scandalous resolution from yesterday-a motion that denies history to please Israel's haters," he said. "Words are important, but they are not a substitute for actions taken by the organization she heads."

Bokova has no official control over resolutions, which are sponsored and voted on by member states.


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