The recent UNESCO vote on Hebron placed the Cave of the Patriarchs entirely in Palestinian domain, ignoring the existence of both the Bible and modern Israel. The move earned the ire of Israel and the Jews, while millions of Christians joined in, decrying the outrage as an offense against their religion as well.
Last Friday, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) held an unprecedented secret ballot in which Hebron and the Machpela (Cave of the Patriarchs) were declared an Endangered World Heritage Site in “Palestine“. The most disturbing aspect of the UNESCO vote is that it effectively erases an entire chapter of the Bible which describes Abraham purchasing the site in perpetuity from Ephron the Hittite.
So the field of Ephron, which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the border thereof round about, were made sure unto Avraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city. Genesis 23:17-18
This aspect of the vote, graphically illustrating that Islam is the most egregious form of Replacement Theology, should be of dire concern for Jews and Christians alike. Assigning the site significance to one nation or religion negates God’s promise to Abraham that he would be the father of many nations.
‘As for Me, behold, My covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be the father of a multitude of nations. Genesis 17:4
Many Christians were deeply disturbed by the UNESCO resolution; David Swaggerty, Senior Pastor and Debra Neybert, Assistant Pastor, of CharismaLife Ministries decried the vote in a statement they made to Breaking Israel News.
“We believe UNESCO made another very unfortunate decision when they chose to declare the old city in the West Bank town of Hebron as a Palestinian world heritage site,” they wrote, citing the Biblical account of Abraham’s purchase. “The Hebrew word Hebron is derived from the Hebrew word for friend (haver), and it describes Abraham’s relationship with God. History reveals this was the first portion of land owned by God’s people in their Promised Land.
”This recent decision speaks to the ongoing battle for the Land of Israel, the enemy wants to continue to diminish the ties the Jewish people have with the Land. Some of the most contended parcels of real estate are the most significant to the history of the Jewish people and Hebron is no exception.”
”We at CharismaLife Ministries stand with the Jewish people and their right to live freely in the Land the LORD cares for. May G-d continue to defend and protect Israel as we pray for her peace and prosperity!”
Many Christians have taken up the political cause of modern Israel as a (Christian) religious imperative. Tommy Waller, President and Founder of HaYovel, called for a response to the UN.
”I am always at a loss for words as the UN continues its incessant attacks against the only democracy in the Middle East,” Waller told Breaking Israel News. “My prayer is that those who stand with Israel will never become indifferent to these attacks. If we lose the indignation – the offense – when we continually read and hear about these blatant assaults we risk becoming indifferent. Indifference, as Elie Wiesel taught us, is religious freedom’s worst enemy.”
Stan Goodenough, a South African Evangelical journalist who has lived in Israel for more than 25 years, saw something much more sinister in the UNESCO vote than a land-grab or a stab at religious freedom.
”Make no mistake – as much as Israel’s annihilation is being worked towards in Iran’s subterranean nuclear weapons facilities,” he wrote in his blog, “it is being arranged in the halls and chambers of the United Nations and its anti-Semitic and anti-Christian organs.”
”And it can be,” he warned, “thanks to the almost complete absence of Christian outrage. We are children of Abraham by faith in the Jewish Messiah. No one would guess that it is OUR fathers whose identity is being stolen and whose graves are being robbed.”
David Parsons, Vice President of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), shared his take regarding the Christian nations who have neglected to decry the resolution.
“UNESCO’s latest resolution on Hebron resolution is yet another misguided attempt to rob the Jewish people of their biblical heritage here in the Land of Israel,” he said. “This revered site has been and always will be the resting place of the Hebrew patriarchs and matriarchs, purchased by Abraham, the great Father of the Jewish people. It is hugely disappointing that even traditionally Christian nations are failing to stand up to this deliberate distortion of established sacred history.”
Friday’s motion neglected to mention what exactly is threatening the structure over the Machpela that was built by Judean King Herod 2,000 year ago. The structure has been safe, open to all, since Israel conquered it from Jordan in 1967.
The UNESCO vote, initiated by the Palestinian Authority (PA), goes counter to the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the PA which established the joint governance of Hebron and shared worship in the Cave of the Patriarchs.
More importantly, while acknowledging that the Machpela was “at the crossroads of trade routes” and “a site of pilgrimage for the three monotheistic religions”, it refers to the Jewish structure as “Al mosque -Ibrahim”, thereby paving the way for a Muslim monopoly on prayer at the site. Similar UNESCO votes have targeted the Temple Mount, where Jews and Christians are already prevented from praying.
Indeed, this issue is a dangerous precedent that imperils more than just the Jews and should be of universal concern. A New York Times article on the UNESCO Hebron vote cited a similar vote that approved China’s request for special recognition for a vast, traditionally Tibetan region known as Hoh Xil or Kekexili. The article quoted Pema Yoko, the executive director of another advocacy group, Students for a Free Tibet.
“UNESCO is supposed to uphold and safeguard the world’s culture,” Yoko said. “But this shameful decision will do exactly the opposite and will ultimately assist China in denying Tibetans their fundamental rights.”
People around the world who value their heritage understood the horrific message sent out by the UNESCO vote: political lobbying can rewrite history and erase what has been written in stone.