The Palestinians Reveal the Ties of Jews to Palestine
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.