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Conference of Presidents Criticizes UNESCO

New York, November 1, 2010 - Leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations strongly criticized the resolution passed recently by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, in which it labeled the historic and sacred Jewish burial site of Rachel’s Tomb a mosque.

“The UNESCO resolution is an affront to history and to truth and to the very principles that UNESCO was formed to protect. To describe the site as a ‘historic mosque,’ as UNESCO has done on previous occasions, including this past spring, is a total distortion and misrepresentation of the facts. For thousands of years, Rachel’s Tomb has been recognized as the burial site of the Jewish matriarch, including during the Ottoman Empire when it was referred to as ‘Qubbat Rukhail.’ This designation of Rachel’s Tomb as ‘Bilal bin Rabah Mosque’ did not appear until the mid-1990s. For a millennium, Jews have held this site sacred as the place where Jacob buried his beloved wife Rachel, as recounted in the Bible. Rachel’s Tomb has been the site of Jewish pilgrimages throughout the ages, including current times, and has never been a mosque. In addition, identifying Rachel’s Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as Palestinian completely disregards the Biblical references to their Jewish origins.”

“The Israeli proposal addressed by the UNESCO resolution designates national shrines in Israel for preservation and in no way changes their status. We note with appreciation the rejection by the U.S. of this resolution. We only wish more countries had the courage to stand against this deliberate manipulation and politicization of the UN body that was created to preserve and protect historic sites. We welcome the assurances by the government of Israel that it will continue to protect and preserve these holy sites for the benefit of all people,” said Conference of Presidents Chairman Alan Solow and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein.

The Conference of Presidents is the central coordinating body representing 51 national Jewish organizations on issues of national and international concern.

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