The Simon Wiesenthal Center complained to UNESCO after the declaration of ancient Jericho as a World Heritage Site

The ancient city of Jericho (Photo by michel Setboun/Corbis via Getty Images) (michel Setboun/)

Dr Shimon Samuels, Director of International Relations of the Wiesenthal Center, sent a letter to UNESCO following the inclusion of the historic city of Jericho as a World Heritage Site, which is part of the West Bank occupied by Israel, and administered by the Palestinian Authority, which has international recognition.

In the letter, Samuels denounced that while the Israeli delegation and the Simon Wiesenthal Center were leaving the World Heritage Committee (WPC) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to celebrate Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, Palestine achieved its annual heritage appropriation.

The organization reiterated its claim for the “danger” caused by rushing the CPM voting process. He also described the approval as a political provocation.

“Struggling to build an identity and historical narrative, since 2011, ‘Palestine’ has been appropriating effectively misappropriated the heritage and cultures of Jews and Christians such as the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem or the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron,” he wrote.

On the other hand, he predicted that this ruling will pave the way for next year’s lawsuit for “the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Qumran caves and the Monastery,” which are already on the “shopping list.”

An image of the archaeological site
An image of the “Sultan’s Hill” archaeological site near Jericho, West Bank (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean) (Mahmoud Illean/)

In his writing he recalled that the Dead Sea Scrolls in particular shed light on Judaism and the roots of Christianity and have no connection at all with Palestine.

“An aggravating factor is the ‘consensus’ process, a format that includes all member states that vote under a closed ballot, they could have voted otherwise,” he stated.

In conclusion, he asked the organization to follow the regular calendar of meetings of the World Heritage Committee, since holding this type of meeting at the beginning of September “It frequently coincides with Jewish and other High Holidays.”

The controversial decision

Israel’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Sunday saying the inclusion of the ruins on the list was a maneuver. “cynical” by the Palestinians to politicize UNESCO, and that Israel will work with its allies to reverse what it considers to be “distorted” decisions by the organization.

Israel left UNESCO in 2019, arguing that the organization was biased against it and downplayed its connection to the Holy Land. Israel also opposed UNESCO accepting Palestine as a member state in 2011. However, Israel remains a party to the World Heritage Convention and sent a delegation to the summit in Riyadh.

Prehistoric ruins of Jericho, registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The winter palace of Hisham, the tenth Umayyad caliph, who built his palace at Jericho in the 8th century. It was destroyed by an earthquake before he could live in it (Photo by © Richard T. Nowitz / CORBIS / Corbis via Getty Images) (Richard Nowitz Photography /)

The city

Modern Jericho is a great tourist attraction in the Palestinian territories, both for its historical sites and its proximity to the Dead Sea. In 2021, the Palestinian Authority unveiled an extensive restoration project on one of the largest mosaics in the Middle East, located in an 8th-century palace in Jericho.

“Sultan’s Hill,” an oval-shaped mound, contains evidence of one of humanity’s earliest known villages and an important Bronze Age city dating back to 2600 BC. It is located about 2 kilometers from the remains of the first city of Jericho, which features ruins of importance to Jewish history, including a synagogue dating to the 1st century BC

The Palestinian Authority, recognized a decade ago by the United Nations as a non-member observer state, welcomed the designation of Tell es-Sultan.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a statement that this “witnesses the authenticity and history of the Palestinian people”adding that “the State of Palestine is committed to preserving this unique place for the benefit of humanity.”