In a significant development during Rosh Hashanah, the members of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, convened in Riyadh and voted in favor of designating Tel Jericho as a World Heritage Site within Palestine, despite Israeli efforts to prevent this decision. Tel Jericho, an ancient city steeped in historical significance, is renowned for its Jewish artifacts and the presence of some of the world's oldest synagogues.
From a political standpoint, Israel faced an uphill battle in preventing this outcome, given the existing majority within the committee that does not support Israel's interests. Palestinian Authority President Abu Mazen warmly welcomed UNESCO's decision, emphasizing its significance in affirming the authenticity and history of the Palestinian people. He underscored Palestine's commitment to preserving this unique site for the benefit of humanity.
It's funny that UNESCO claims Tel Jericho is a Palestinian heritage site...— יוסף חדאד - Yoseph Haddad (@YosephHaddad) September 17, 2023
Apart from the fact that the site is today in the territory under the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinians have nothing to do with it...what made it worthy to be called a heritage site is the heritage… pic.twitter.com/s8oxJpim09
However, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed disappointment in the decision. They highlighted the message from the Secretary-General of the UNESCO Heritage Committee, which attempted to separate the registration of the prehistoric site from Jewish and Christian sites in the region. Despite sincere efforts, the Ministry viewed this decision as another example of the politicization of UNESCO by the Palestinians. Israel vowed to work against this decision, even among its friends in the organization, with the aim of rectifying what they saw as a distortion of historical facts.
Prominent figures within the Land of Israel lobby, including MK Yuli Edelstein, MK Limor Son Har Melech, and MK Simcha Rothman, were quick to denounce UNESCO's decision. They expressed shock at "UNESCO's decision to declare the Tel Jericho site, which is associated with the ancient biblical city of Jericho, as a Palestinian heritage site. This is a history-denying decision that goes against both common sense and justice as well as the principles of the United Nations and UNESCO.”
The archeological Tel as-Sultan/Ancient Jericho site in the city of Jericho, east of the occupied West Bank, has been declared as a #Palestinian World Heritage site by UNESCO. pic.twitter.com/1Os4qkIUaK— Quds News Network (@QudsNen) September 18, 2023
They further added that “The Palestinian Authority works non-stop to deny and destroy Israeli history in the territories subject to its possession, and tries to build an 'alternative history', which has nothing to do with the findings on the ground. And in this decision, UNESCO gives a hand to these actions. Ancient Jericho, and within it Tel Jericho is an important piece of history in the history of the Jewish people. It is impossible that an organization that claims to represent the values of global culture and education, is a partner in the biggest falsification and destruction of history projects in the last decades."