web analytics
October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

The Palestinians Reveal the Jewish Connection to Palestine

The Palestinians have asked the World Heritage Committee (WHC) of UNESCO to recognize Battir, a village about 5 miles west of Bethlehem, as a World Heritage Site and add it to the 936 sites already maintained by UNESCO. The city's original name was Betar, the last fortress of Bar Kochba and the name of Jabotinsky's Zionist youth movement.
Jewish Children playing in the streets of Betar (Battir).

Jewish Children playing in the streets of Betar (Battir).
Photo Credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90

The Palestinians have inadvertently contributed to the truth of the historic relationship of Jews with the land of Israel.

How?  By asking the World Heritage Committee (WHC) of UNESCO to recognize Battir, a village about 5 miles west of Bethlehem, as a World Heritage Site and add it to the 936 sites already maintained by UNESCO.  Unwittingly, the Palestinians have given the world the opportunity to learn about a historic relationship.

The Palestinians in October 2011 were granted full membership in UNESCO, which they hoped would lead to international recognition of a state of Palestine.  As a consequence of this membership, they are a party to the proceedings of the WHC, which has 21 changing members, presently including Russia, Qatar, Algeria, and the United Arab Emirates, but not including the United States or Britain.

The request regarding the recognition of Battir is connected with the Palestinian’s more ambitious claim to be accorded by UNESCO the heritage over the basilica of the Church of the Nativity, regarded as the birthplace of Jesus, and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem.  Already, UNESCO has designated two Jewish sacred sites — Rachel’s Tomb, the burial place of the matriarch Rachel, the wife of Jacob, and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron — not as Jewish holy sites, but as mosques.  Only the United States voted against this proposal that was approved by 44 of the 58 members of the board of UNESCO.

The claim made by the Palestinians for Battir to be recognized as a Heritage Site is ostensibly based on its unusual topography of historic terraces and its Roman irrigation system.  The Palestinian Authority (PA) asserts that that it is a “historically sensitive area … where a millenary irrigation system is still in use to water the vegetable gardens of Battir.”  The village, which has grown in recent years to a population of 4,000, does have seven natural springs, an old Roman bath, and an irrigation system that waters fruit and vegetables.

However, the reason for the Palestinian request is more political than aesthetic.  The PA argues that Israel is planning to build part of its security fence through the valley and that it will damage a site that it claims, in accordance with the UNESCO operational guidelines concerning the acceptance of World Heritage Sites, is “representative of a culture.”

The Palestinian complaint is that the Israeli fence will deny the ability of the residents to enjoy their natural heritage and sustain the land.  The village, they argue, should be maintained as a landmark of Palestinian and humanitarian heritage.  The complaint has gone to the Israeli Supreme Court, which will adjudicate the question of the exact route of the fence, whether it should be rerouted, and whether the route is in accordance with Israeli security considerations.

All will almost certainly acknowledge the pleasant nature of the village and its picturesque character.  Yet the Palestinians’ ambitious claim is deficient in a number of ways.  Though the Roman irrigation system is historically interesting, in fact, the village gets most of its water from the West Bank Water Department, the public water network established in 1980.  The village has grown substantially since then, and the natural heritage there is threatened more by increased housing development than by any Israeli action.  Moreover, pretty though the area might be, it does not meet the objective requirements of UNESCO — namely, that a Heritage Site be a place of beauty, of importance, and of outstanding universal value.

But most important, the Palestinians have unwittingly drawn attention to the historic Jewish relationship with and claim to the land of Palestine.  The original name of Battir was Betar, the last fortress of Bar Kochba (son of a star) in his revolt against the Romans in 132-135.  The revolt led to the creation of an independent state of Israel over parts of Judea for over two years before being crushed by the Roman army of six legions.  The result was the killing of thousands of Jews — perhaps half a million — and the loss of Israeli independence and of Jewish religious and political authority.  The Romans did not allow the Jews to bury their dead in Betar.

A Jewish entity was not again the center of religious, cultural, and political life until the 20th century, but Betar remained an important symbolic reminder of the Jewish past.  The Revisionist Zionist youth movement, formed in 1923 by Vladimir Jabotinsky, took its name from the fortress.  The movement played a role in fighting against Nazi Germany in World War II.  Interestingly, Jabotinsky’s main political opponent, David Ben Gurion, is said by some to have taken his Hebrew name from one of the generals who fought in Betar.

About the Author: Michael Curtis is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Rutgers University, and author of the forthcoming book, Should Israel Exist? A sovereign nation under assault by the international community.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Palestinians Reveal the Jewish Connection to Palestine”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Chaye Zisel Braun
Funeral for Chaye Zisel Braun Underway [photos]
Latest Indepth Stories
Keeping-Jerusalem

Judea and Samaria (Yesha) have been governed by the IDF and not officially under Israeli sovereignty


n past decades, Oman has struck a diplomatic balance between Saudi Arabia, the West, and Iran.

The Jewish Press endorses the reelection of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. His record as governor these past four years offers eloquent testimony to the experience and vision he has to lead the Empire State for the next four years.

I think Seth Lipsky is amazing, but it just drives home the point that newspapers have a lot of moving parts.

While not all criticism of Israel stemmed from anti-Semitism, Podhoretz contends the level of animosity towards Israel rises exponentially the farther left one moved along the spectrum.

Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.

The question of anti-Semitism in Europe today is truly tied to the issue of immigration.

Polls indicate that the Palestinians are much more against a two state solution than the Israelis.

Turkey and Iran the 2 regional powers surrounding the ISIS conflict gain from a partial ISIS victory

Emigration from Israel is at an all-time low, far lower than immigration to Israel from Europe.

Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters: “‘Klinghoffer’ is justified as ‘a work of art’…This is an outrage.”

Do you seriously think that as you kidnap our children we should medically treat and help yours?

Sometimes collective action against the heinous acts of the majority is not enough. The world should not only support the blockade of Gaza; it must enforce the dismantling of Hamas.

The Arab Spring has challenged Jordan with the task of gradual reform with regard to its monarchy.

More Articles from Michael Curtis
Rania Okby, Bedouin Israeli on faculty of Ben Gurion University Health Sciences School

Boko Haram enforces a patriarchal oriented society in which women are treated as “sexual slaves.”

Arab Woman

These feminists are so anti-Israel that they ignore Arab women’s lack of political and social freedom

With the Syrian government refusing to allow UN inspectors into the country it is difficult to see how indisputable proof of use of chemical weapons can be found

Sweden is now a country where orthodox Jews are afraid to wear a skullcap.

Since June 2005, the EU has given more than $48 million to over 90 NGOs based in Israel, who are regarded as critical of Israel.

The EU has yet to appreciate the reality that the conflict continues because of the refusal of the Palestinians to accept the right of the State of Israel to exist.

Today, fewer than 4,500 Jews remain in Arab countries. Israel absorbed and integrated 600,000 of the more than 850,000 who left.

The Palestinians have asked the World Heritage Committee (WHC) of UNESCO to recognize Battir, a village about 5 miles west of Bethlehem, as a World Heritage Site and add it to the 936 sites already maintained by UNESCO. The city’s original name was Betar, the last fortress of Bar Kochba and the name of Jabotinsky’s Zionist youth movement.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-palestinians-reveal-the-jewish-connection-to-palestine/2012/09/13/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: