B’nai B’rith International supports Israel’s decision to expand its national heritage list to protect religious sites central to Jewish history.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has added the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem to the list of about 150 national heritage sites. These sites, sitting in the heart of the biblical landscape, anchor Jews in their religion and ancestral homeland. The Cave of the Patriarchs is where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah are believed to be buried. Rachel, another of the biblical matriarchs, is buried in Bethlehem.
“Israel’s survival in part depends on its historical connection to the land,” said B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick. “Affording these two sites national heritage designations ensures they will be preserved and protected for all religions in the region. This continuity is vital to the Jewish homeland.”
These sites are held to be holy by Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike. Inclusion on the heritage list will promote education about the sacred places and help ensure that they are preserved. More than any prior custodian of the Holy Land, Israel, a democracy, has enshrined freedom of religion and access to diverse places of worship.
Officials at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other U.N. bodies have criticized Israel for adding these sites to the national protection list. Israel has never denied non-Jewish ties to the sites in question, yet Palestinians rioted in Hebron this week and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas warned Israel of a “religious war.”
“The Jewish people’s roots are integrally tied to these two sites. The history is undeniable—but it is regularly denied across Palestinian and Arab society,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “The real impediment to peace in the Middle East is this delegitimization of Israel and incitement to hatred and violence.”