A group of lawmakers from the Knesset Land of Israel Caucus conducted a field tour of the Jericho archaeological site on Tuesday, as the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is expected to vote to approve its designation as a “Palestinian World Heritage” site.
Israeli Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu said Jericho’s connection to Jewish history is clear to any person with biblical knowledge.
“Not a single person in the world who has read the Bible can think for a moment that Jericho can be disconnected from the heritage of the Jewish people,” Eliyahu stated.
Simcha Rothman, co-chair of the Caucus, and Chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, said such a declaration would “condone the eradication of the physical record and the denial of history.”
Rothman's comment made reference to the fact that only the portion of the site under Israeli jurisdiction is a protected archaeological site with signage and organized access. The area under Palestinian control has been paved over.
Caucus co-chair Limor Son Har-Melech warned that the attempt to declare the site a Palestinian heritage site is part of an effort to erase Jewish history.
“There are those who seek to erase the story of the Jewish people; their efforts are relentless and focused. Jericho has historically been known as the keyhole through which the Land of Israel is accessed,” she commented.
Son Har-Melech also said such a designation would not diminish the meaning of Jericho in the Jewish consciousness.
“We know the truth; our nation knows the truth about what Jericho means for us, that it is part of the bedrock of the history of the Jewish people. This is eternal truth that no one can erase.”
Settlement Affairs Minister Orit Strock, who also participated in the tour, called on UNESCO to not reward the PA, given its history of antiquities destruction.
“I call upon the Director General of UNESCO Audrey Azoulay: Don’t allow yourself to be a part of this disgrace. Don’t hand out prizes to those who are destroying world heritage assets,” Strock said.
Binyamin Regional Council head Israel Gantz, who led the tour, said, “We commend UNESCO for recognizing the historical significance of ancient Jericho. Indeed, its biblical context should be world-renowned.”
He said the recognition should be done “within the framework of truth.”
“I call upon the organization to carefully consider this move and to recognize this important site for what it is—the first city conquered by the Jewish nation entering the Land of Israel, and the site of many historic biblical events. It has always been significant for the people of Israel, our Jewish heritage and for everyone who reads the Bible and knows its history.”
Likud party lawmaker and caucus member Dan Illouz wrote a letter to UNESCO's Azoulay, asking her to prevent ancient Jericho from being listed as located in the “State of Palestine.”
The Palestinian Authority works systematically to erase all ties of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel,” Illouz wrote on social media.
In 2016, UNESCO declared the Tomb of the Patriarchs, believed to be the burial site of Jewish patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as being located within the “State of Palestine.”
Between 2009-2014, UNESCO has passed 47 resolutions criticizing nations worldwide. Of those, 46 were against Israel and just one was against Syria.
Israel withdrew from UNESCO in 2018.
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The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.