Drifting Away: A Sailing Story

UNESCO, the Palestinians and Israel's holy sites

Yesterday I'd posted a story titled "Is Israel abandoning the Mount of Olives?" I used that title because that is the actual title of the opinion piece as it appeared a few days ago in Israel National News. In the article the author bemoaned the fact that the Mount of Olives cemetery "suffers from desecration of graves and violence against visitors, including stones thrown at mourners and family members." The author also went on to explain that the UN heritage organization, UNESCO, consistently denies or restricts status and access to Jewish Holy Sites, such as Jericho Synagogue, the Mugrabi Bridge, Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb.

A reader posted a question, a good one: "I wonder why Israel is giving up some of these sites??? Why did they give David's tomb to the Catholics?" This post is the answer. First, a look at why the sites are slipping out of Israel's hands. It revolves around UNESCO, an organization of the UN.

UNESCO is an organization of the UN "best known for designating world heritage sites, [and also] is a major global development agency whose missions include promoting literacy, science, clean water and education, including sex education and promoting equal treatment for girls and young women."

Here is an example of how the UN restricts status and steals Jewish holy sites:

2010: UNESCO steals Holy Site, gives it to Palestinians
"The board of UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has decided that Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs — both of which are ancient Jewish holy places — should be removed from Israel’s list of national sites. And that’s not all. According to UNESCO, Rachel’s Tomb isn’t Jewish after all, despite millenia of history. Its name should accordingly be changed to the Bilal ibn Rabah mosque — a demand the Palestinians manufactured, in the teeth of all historical evidence, in 1996."

The process is that members of UNESCO list an inventory of their heritage and holy sites each year. Members produce an inventory of those properties which each State Party intends to consider for nomination. Once nominated and accepted by vote, the site gets protected status and financial aid. Non-members cannot nominate any sites, as this next story reports--

May 2011: UNESCO rejects Palestinian nominations
Unesco is considering adding 11 Middle East sites in June for inclusion on its World Heritage List, but the Palestinian nomination will not be among them. The Palestinian proposal of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem was rejected for consideration. “The World Heritage Committee will not be able to consider the nomination until, if and when Palestine becomes a state party to the [World Heritage] Convention,” said Louise Haxthausen, the head of Unesco’s office in Ramallah. Only countries recognised by the United Nations as sovereign states and members of the world body can make nominations to Unesco."

The Palestinians went "HMMMMMM"

On October 31, 2011, the Palestinian Authority, which had applied for membership into UNESCO organization, was voted in.

October 2011: UN accepts Palestinian Authority as members of UNESCO
"Palestine became the 195th full member of Unesco on Monday...Cheers filled the hall at Unesco’s headquarters here after the vote, with one delegate shouting, “Long live Palestine!” in French."

It didn't take long for the Palestinians to get in on the current round of nominations. As a matter of fact, two weeks before the UNESCO membership vote at the UN on Oct 31, this story appeared:

"Palestinians to push heritage status at UNESCO for birthplace of Jesus"
"The Palestinians will seek World Heritage status for the birthplace of Jesus once the U.N. cultural agency admits them as a full member, and will then nominate other sites on Israeli-occupied land for the same standing, an official said. ... He said that after gaining full UNESCO membership, the Palestinians will revive their bid to secure World Heritage status for Bethlehem and its Church of the Nativity, revered as the birthplace of Jesus. The nomination was rejected this year because the Palestinians were not a full UNESCO member."

'Israeli-occupied' land... [snort]. Well the PA did what the article said they planned to do. After the three month waiting period and the moment their membership became active, the PA came out with their list of nominations and sure enough, the birthplace of Jesus was on their list-

March 2012: Palestinians to submit 20 sites for UNESCO listing
"The Palestinians are poised to submit the names of 20 sites in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza for addition to UNESCO's list of World Heritage sites, an official said on Thursday. Palestine was accepted as a full member state of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation last year, over objections from Israel and the United States, and despite not having full United Nations membership. But its tenure as a full UNESCO member came into force on Thursday, and diplomats now plan to move quickly to register Palestinian sites. "From today we are a full party as a state so now we can start all the things that states can do within the rules of the convention, one of them is that we can submit our list to the World Heritage committee," he said. Until now, the Palestinians could not formally submit any sites in the Palestinian territories for inclusion in the list. The tentative list that will be submitted is the first step in the process of obtaining World Heritage status for the sites, and is intended as an inventory of the locations a member wishes to register, UNESCO says. The list includes sites ranging from Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, revered as the birthplace of Jesus Christ, to Hebron's walled Old City in the southern West Bank."

So that is how these sites are slipping from Israel's hands. Now to the second question, why did the Israelis give the Vatican sovereignty over David's tomb?

Let's go back a few months ago, to December 2011:

"The Vatican’s former foreign minister asked to place some Israeli holy places under Vatican authority, alluding to the Cenacle on Mount Zion and the garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The first site also houses what is referred to as King David’s tomb."

The Cenacle is the Upper Room where authorities say the Last Supper took place. The article continues:

"The Israeli government and the Vatican are deadlocked in discussions over the status of the religious sites. Vatican officials are now reiterating their demand for control over the religious sites in the ancient and holy city founded by King David as the capital of ancient Israel and now the capital of the reestablished Jewish state. Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, declared that Israel might consider giving the Vatican “a greater role” in operating the sites. In the last weeks, the Roman Catholic Church’s authorities increased their political initiatives for Catholic control over some sites in Jerusalem.'

The problem, they allege, is here encapsulated in the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church Fouad Twal's speech, in which he denounced “the Israeli right wing invading more and more of Jerusalem and trying to transform it into an only Hebrew-Jewish city, excluding the other faiths”.


The truth is that everyone wants a piece of Israel, not just the Palestinians and not just the United Nations, not just Iran and Hamas and Hezbollah, but the Catholics too. They are all like snarling wolves fighting over an increasingly carved up Israel. So that is the story of how they are striking at the heart of Israel, not just through rockets lobbed at Israel towns and cities (summary of rocket events here), not just through the Israel-hating UN, but at a constant and subtle chipping away at Israel through its heart and holy sites.

Job 14:19a, "water wears away stones"... and feet wears away stones too.

Canterbury Cathedral: Stairs to the south ambulatory, worn down by pilgrim feet and knees.
The truth is, even stone gets worn and weary, and constant pressure and treading on it wears it away. With pressure on all sides, I can't imagine how the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli people (a million of them recently sheltering in underground bunkers due to rocket barrages) withstand the pressure. But the pressure will get more intense as the jackals come for Israel.

The good news is that the promise of God to the People is that their land is actually Israel, Jordan, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and half of Egypt. They will dwell there someday, during the Millennium.

I believe that the Tribulation events will obliterate most of Jerusalem and that the Millennial Kingdom will usher in a time where the land and the buildings will be new and different, but still, wouldn't it be something if one of the Old Testament Patriarchs said, "Hey, let's take a walk to the Mount of Olives Tombs to see where I used to be buried!"

Greater Israel map Source
Praise God His promises are true! I long for the day when the world will love Israel because they love God and know that it is HIS land and HIS people. Israel must be punished prior to that glorious time, though, and meanwhile, now and then, we pray. We pray the Israelites of today will have the strength to bear what is coming, and we pray in praises to God that He maintains a remnant

"It shall come to pass in that day That the Lord shall set His hand again the second time To recover the remnant of His people who are left, From Assyria and Egypt, From Pathros and Cush, From Elam and Shinar, From Hamath and the islands of the sea." (Isaiah 11:11)

Blessed are the words, 'It shall come to pass.'


  1. Hi Elizabeth,
    I LOVE the new look! It is very fresh. Cool post, I really loved your little joke about looking at the tombs where we once were buried.


  2. Something else you may find interesting--well actually sickening and heartbreaking, but still related to these events by the Vatican: On Now The End Begins Site: Article entitled: "Vatican Approved and Unveils Disturbing Last Supper Portrayal in Germany: I believe 3/12/2012 is the date of the article and they do show the picture,which hurts really bad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!God Bless You and thank you for all your posts and hard work, see you in the air soon!!!!!!!!!

  3. "Israel must be punished prior to that glorious time, though, and meanwhile, now and then, we pray."

    I am reminded of Tevya in Fiddler on the Roof: [to God] I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can't You choose someone else?

    This is a serious question: How is a short 3-7 year period going to do more punishment than the last 2000 years, which includes WWII and countless other pogroms? It seems to me that Israel has been and is being punished still since the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD. Every generation since then has had one thing or another happen to them. Seems to me they've already had almost 2000 years of punishment!

  4. Anonymous, good point. I know it seems like they have been in a terrible travail for thousands of years, and even before with Pharaoh, the wandering, the military campaigns....but compared to His riches, His holiness, His care, those travails are as nothing in comparison.

    The Old Testament shows God's personal care of His people, His blessings upon a nation. Despite their infidelities and continual and cyclical turning to other gods, even at that, God was with them.

    In addition, He gave the Law and the Prophets so that they would have everlasting promises of their coming Messiah.

    Howeer the people and especially the religious leaders, made a false religion out of it (by adding laws and becoming hollow, a religion for show).

    So when Jesus came, the fulfillment of long-term promises, of ALL people, the leaders and the people should have seen Him for who He is. I mean, the Samaritan woman did! They didn't, or if they did, they refused becauase they wanted to cling to their pwoer and/or rejected Him because they wanted a redeemer from Roman oppression. They wanted a kingdom on earth now but Jesus was offering a kingdom in heaven now and then a kingdom on earth later.

    So in Luke 13:35 he told them, "Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'". He began to build His church.

    The Jews are currently living in the time of desolation, but not abandonment. Even after all that, He preserves a remnant. Even after all that, He has blessed the Jewish people and prospered them. Just yesterday they discovered oil ff their coast, AGAIN.

    I know it seems like they have been through a lot, but no other people have had such personal and visible demonstrations of God's love and faithfulness, ever. It is a weighty and grave thing to reject the living God, and the last few thousand years is a demonstration to us of both His faithfulness to His promises and also penalties for rejection.


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