David Lindsay weighs in on UNESCO’s decision after the application from the Palestinian Authority to secure World Heritage status for the oldest Christian church in continuous operation in the world (with the delegates of modern Israel and the United States being predictably incensed at the inclusion):
The Palestinian Authority has managed to secure World Heritage Site status for the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which the Israelis had wanted to demolish in favour of a Wal-Mart or something.
The Israelis are incandescent that the PA has secured World Heritage Site status for what, whether or not you believe (as I do, because I can see no reason not to) that it stands on the site of the Birth of Jesus, is undeniably the world’s oldest Christian church in continuous use.
How was it not already a World Heritage Site? Who has been stopping that designation? And why would they not want it to be so designated? What else do they want to do with the site? One really does shudder to think. But it is academic now, so they may as well tell us.
The howling over the impending prospect of a Palestinian State also includes, as if it were self-evidently a bad thing, the possibility of World Heritage Site status for the Tomb of Rachel and for the Tomb of the Patriarchs. But then, the present Israeli Government wants to denaturalise the ultra-Orthodox Jews as well as the ancient indigenous Christians.
The war that Israel ordered up in Iraq has already turned the Shrine of Ezra the Scribe, who invented both synagogues and the square Hebrew script, into a mosque. The Shrine of Ezekiel, featuring some of the oldest Hebrew inscriptions in the world, is next on the hit list.
Across the border in Iran, whatever regime the Crazies sought to install would be just as conservative of the Shrine of Habakkuk, of the Shrine of Daniel, and of the Tomb of Esther and Mordechai. It says in the Bible that those figures were Persian. Where did you think that they were buried? Or did you just not believe it...?
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said in response to the UNESCO decision that the body ‘is motivated by political and not cultural considerations’. Riddle me this: if the very birthplace of Our Lord and Saviour is not of overriding cultural significance to the nation and to the world he came to save, let alone religious, what possibly can be?