1st November, 2010
Israel has been advised to remove Rachel’s Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs from their National Heritage List. What is more, Rachel’s Tomb is now to be a mosque, because UNESCO decided.
UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) took their vote not long after their director Irena Bokova expressed her ‘concern’ that Israel considered Rachel’s Tomb, a heritage listing.
Muslims claim Rachel’s Tomb is holy to them. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has demanded control over both the tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarch in Hebron, as well as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas described the heritage listing by Israel as ‘a severe provocation.’ Ismail Haniyeh, the PA Prime Minister called for Arabs in the West Bank to start a third intifada.
The UNESCO ruling has aroused strong passions. Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, Rabbi of the Western Wall, described the decision as ‘outrageous.’ Specifically he was distressed that the Temple Mount had been discussed along with the other holy sites.
“They have never said in the past that this was a Muslim holy site. The (UN) organization responsible for heritage has turned heritage into politics,” he said.
A report by Israel National News had this comment: “Journalist Nadav Shragai, writing for Yisrael Hayom, noted that Muslims living in the land of Israel have historically referred to Rachel’s Tomb as “Kubat Rahel,” the Arabic term for “Rachel’s Tomb.” Under Ottoman rule, Rachel’s Tomb was a Jewish site.
Only in 1996 did the PA begin to call the site the Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque, he said.”
To say this UNESCO edict will ignite the already heated friction is an understatement. It seems any excuse for jihad (holy war) is grabbed with great gusto and fury.
In the midst of the mounting rage comes the wisdom of Rabbi Michael Cohen (www.ahava.org). “The lesson for the religious leaders of Judaism, Christianity and Islam is to start by talking about making the Holy Sites not bastions of exclusivity, but rather models and places where each side can meet each other and see the holy spark we all contain, no matter what our religion.
“I witnessed something like this earlier this year on a Saturday morning at the Kibbutz Ketura in Israel. The synagogue was filled with Jewish, Christian and Muslim college students of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, including some Muslim women wearing headscarves. They were there to celebrate the Adult Bar and Bat Mitzvah of two of their classmates – a very powerful sight to witness.
“As religious leaders, we should make every effort we can to talk about the Holy Sites as places holy to all three Abrahamic faiths, and to strive to connect with those of different faiths. Through dialogue and personal interactions, we can begin to lay the foundation for sharing the Holy Sites and embracing the other.” He wrote this comment last August.
Reminds me of a Scripture. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Romans 12:18)