UN agency in preliminary vote approves resolution that denies Jewish connection to Jerusalem
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UN agency in preliminary vote approves resolution that denies Jewish connection to Jerusalem

Jewish worshippers draped in prayer shawls performing the annual Priestly Blessing during Sukkot at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel, Sept. 30, 2015. (Gil Cohen/AFP/Getty Images)

Jewish worshippers draped in prayer shawls performing the annual Priestly Blessing during Sukkot at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel, Sept. 30, 2015. (Gil Cohen/AFP/Getty Images)

(JTA) — A United Nations agency in a preliminary vote has passed a controversial resolution that denies a Jewish connection to the Old City of Jerusalem.

UNESCO — the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — at its executive board’s meeting Thursday in Paris passed the Palestinian-backed measure with 24 votes in favor and 6 against, with 26 countries abstaining.

The United States, the United Kingdom and Germany were among those that voted against the resolution. They were joined by Lithuania, the Netherlands and Estonia. Other European countries abstained.

A final vote reportedly will be taken early next week.

Israel’s permanent delegate to UNESCO, Carmel Shama Hacohen, said of the vote, according to Ynet: “Israel and the Jewish people don’t require UNESCO’s or any other country’s confirmation of the special connection between the Jewish people and the State of Israel and Jerusalem in general and the holy sites therein like the Western Wall and the Temple Mount in particular.

“There is no connection of another people to another place in the world that comes close to the strength and depth of our connection to Jerusalem from a religious, historical and national perspective, a connection that has stood the test of 2,000 years.”

Discussion and a vote on the resolution were postponed from the board’s meeting in July.

The UNESCO resolution reportedly refers to the Temple Mount several times as Al Haram Al Sharif, the Islamic term for the Temple Mount, without mentioning that it is the holiest site in Judaism, according to UN Watch. It also uses the term Buraq Plaza, placing Western Wall Plaza in quotes, appearing to deny a Jewish connection to the site. The Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron is referred to as the al-Ḥaram al-Ibrahimi and Rachel’s Tomb, outside Bethlehem, is noted as the Bilal ibn Rabaḥ Mosque.

A similar resolution was adopted by UNESCO’s executive board in April.

During an event Thursday at the president’s residence in Jerusalem in honor of the upcoming holiday of Sukkot, Reuven Rivlin also addressed the upcoming UNESCO vote.

“The festivals of Israel all highlight the inextricable bond between our people and our land, and no forum or body in the world can come and deny the connection between the Jewish people, the Land of Israel and Jerusalem – and any such body that does so simply embarrasses itself,” he said, adding: “We can understand criticism, but you cannot change history.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s Foreign Ministry has asked the Holy See, which holds nonvoting observer status at UNESCO, to assist in defeating the resolution, arguing that the resolution also harms Christians, Ynet reported.

Earlier in the week, 39 Democratic and Republican U.S. lawmakers sent a letter initiated by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., to the UNESCO executive board urging it to reject the proposal, which the letter called “unnecessarily divisive and selective,” and said would “further damage the prospects of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”