New Temple Find is Sure to Embarrass UNESCO

Restored floor tiles from the Second Temple courtyard (Credit: Temple Mount Sifting Project)

One side-effect of anti-Israel politics is when an international organization refuses to carry out its mandate in the Middle East, because doing so might validate Israel’s identity as the restored Jewish nation. But while most attempt to rationalize such evasions, one global body doesn’t mind insulting the world’s intelligence: the inaptly named “United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization” (UNESCO).  

An episode of UNESCO gibberish was observed in April 2016, when “education, science and culture” were all decapitated at one blow, to placate the wishful thinking of Arabist colonialism (better known as “the Islamic narrative”).  

In this historic rewrite of history, the Temple Mount was declared an exclusively Muslim site and renamed “Al-Haram Al Sharif“, with no reference to either Temple for which the Mount is named. Israel was then rebuked for “violating the sanctity” of the site by allowing “Israeli rightwing extremists” to show their faces there… a bad Jewish habit that in UNESCO’s memory only began in September 2000.  

Jewish visitor centers anywhere near the Mount were likewise condemned, as well as any infrastructure improvements by Israel… right down to “the installment of an umbrella at the entrance” to the Mughrabi Gate, the only route permitting non-Muslims to enter the Temple Mount.

And the gibberish did not end there. The world-famous Jewish place of prayer was renamed “AlBuraq Plaza” [sic], followed by “Western Wall Plaza” in skeptic-quotes, to hint at its doubtful origins. Even the two-state-promoting Ha’aretz took offense at this, acidly reporting it as “The Day the UN Downgraded Judaism’s Holiest Site to a Stable“. (Al-Buraq was Mohammed’s horse.)

The joke, however, is on UNESCO, which apparently had amnesia about its own on-site visit in 2007. That report noted (emphasis added) that Al-Buraq’s stable was definitely NOT located on the Western Wall plaza: On the other side of the wall, inside the Haram es-Sharif , a prayer room exists, sacred to the Muslims and believed to be the shelter of Al-Buraq, the horse of Prophet Mohammad.” Muslim sites confirm that the Masjid al-Buraq is indeed part of the al-Aqsa compound, on top of the Mount.

An eloquent response to this UN-bearable nonsense was given at the 17th Annual City of David Archaeological Conference, which took place on September 8 in Jerusalem. There, conference attendees not only heard from historians well-equipped to expose UNESCO’s willful ignorance; they were also treated to a close-up look at several gorgeous tiles of inlaid marble that once graced the floor of the second Temple court – now restored by archeologists. The kaleidoscopic geometric designs of these tiles identify them as the most luxurious kind produced by artisans of the Roman period, with its pieces so precisely fitted together that “one could not even insert a sharp blade between them.” Ha’aretz published color photos of the reconstructed tiles.  

The ancient flooring was restored from hundreds of marble fragments found in the trash discarded by the Islamic Waqf, the Muslim guardians controlling access to the Temple Mount. The trash-pile consists of dirt and garbage, mixed with remains from both Temples. These priceless artifacts spanning thousands of years were destroyed during the construction of a subterranean mosque under the al-Aqsa complex, which began in 1996 over Israeli objections. By 2002, an estimated 13,000 tons of rubble from inside the Mount had been dumped into the Kidron Valley, and 6000 square meters of the Temple Mount surface had been paved over, while the Israeli Antiquities Authority stood by helplessly.  

For those wondering what might have existed inside the Mount to begin with, rare antique photographs have preserved some evidence. The assumption that those photos were of Temple structures is supported by the newly restored Temple floor tiles, among the most impressive finds ever recovered from the Waqf dump. They are undoubtedly providing new motivation for the IAA professionals, archeology students and volunteers of all ages who patiently sift for hours every day through the Temple Mount trash.

Among the dignitaries congratulating the diggers and sifters at this year’s City of David conference was Dore Gold, Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and a lecturer on Jerusalem history. (His speech starts at time-mark 52:00.) Dr. Gold remarked with sarcasm that, given its name, “one would think that UNESCO deals with education, science and culture;” instead, UNESCO seems dedicated to denying Jewish history in Jerusalem… and beyond. As an example of the latter, he cited the April UNESCO resolution, which inexplicably described Rachel’s Tomb near Bethlehem as “Bilal ibn Raba Mosque“, named after a Muslim convert whose shrine – according to Muslim tradition – is in Damascus! Not mentioned but also relevant was official UN recognition of Rachel’s Tomb as a “Jewish holy place” in 1949.

Dr. Gold re-educated UNESCO on other points of UN history. He noted that after the 1967 Six-Day War, the concept of Israel as “the aggressor” in that war was introduced to the UN for a vote several times by the USSR, only to be rejected every time. (See documentation for this and other forgotten facts in Dore Gold’s 2011 research on Israel’s rights to Jerusalem according to international law.)

Concluding his speech, Dr. Gold related that he personally met with the Secretary General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, who told him that she was not responsible for the fantasies promoted by the organization; it was the will of “an automatic majority” in UNESCO to promote an alternate Temple Mount narrative. He responded by urging her to bring all the UNESCO diplomats to Jerusalem, to learn the difference between “narrative” and “history”.

The reconstructed Temple floor tiles will eventually be on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, alongside other finds from 3000 years of Jewish presence in their capital city.  Another treasure already housed in the Museum is the oldest surviving copy of the Bible, the Aleppo Codex. This 10th-century artifact, which (like all Bibles) testifies of the existence of two Jewish Temples in the heart of ancient Jerusalem, was included last year in UNESCO’s “Memory of the World Register“… yet another tribute to the erratic decisions of this custodian of global heritage.

One hopes that Ms. Bokova will take Dr. Gold’s invitation seriously. But we can’t expect much from a “scientific” organization that thinks Israel is geographically part of “Europe and North America.