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Another One Bites the Dust, Rabbinical Blacklist, Road to Independence


UNESCO Declares Hebron’s Core as Palestinian World Heritage Site

Isabel Kershner, New York Times, July 7th 2017

Recap:

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) ignored Jewish ties to Hebron and deemed the city a Palestinian World Heritage site in danger. The decision follows a recent string of resolutions that ignore or minimize Jewish connections to holy sites in Israel.

The Context:

  • Hebron is home to the Cave of the Patriarchs, an ancient shrine revered by Jews, Muslims and Christians as the burial place of the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs.

  • The Palestinian Authority (PA) administers most of Hebron. Several hundred Jews live in heavily guarded areas in the city surrounded by 170,000 Palestinians [1]. Hebron’s history of violence includes the 1929 massacre of 67 Jews and the 1994 murder of 29 Palestinians [2].

  • As part of the Oslo peace accords, the PA is required to guarantee safe access to worshippers of all faiths to the area’s holy sites, however, Hebron remains highly perilous to non-Muslims.

  • The Palestinian sponsored UNESCO resolution was fast-tracked [3] and passed by a vote of 12-3. Designating Hebron as an endangered area requires the World Heritage Committee to discuss the issue annually.

  • Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, called the resolution an “affront to history,” and criticized UNESCO for politicizing its platform by ignoring treasured sites from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Syria that are under more imminent danger of destruction.

  • Israel will further reduce its membership fees to the United Nations by $1 million annually and use the funds to establish a Jewish People’s heritage museum in Hebron. Former US president Barack Obama withdrew all US funding from UNESCO after it admitted the Palestinians as a member state in 2011 [4].

Conversation Points:

  • Does Hebron’s designation as a solely Palestinian entity further discredit an already questionable UN agency?

  • Why aren’t world leaders outraged that Jews and Christians cannot safely worship in areas of the West Bank?

  • Is UNESCO utilized by its members as a political tool rather than a professional organization?

160 Rabbis, Including Top US Orthodox Leaders, on Israeli Rabbinate ‘Blacklist’

Ben Sales, Times of Israel, July 9th 2017

Recap:

160 rabbis from 24 countries, including several prominent American Orthodox leaders, were featured on a list of rabbis whom Israel’s Chief Rabbinate does not trust to confirm the Jewish identities of immigrants.

The Context:

  • The Chief Rabbinate controls Jewish marriage in Israel and immigrants who wish to wed must first prove they are Jewish according to Orthodox law via a letter from a community rabbi attesting to their Jewish identity. Itamar Tubul, the head of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate personal status division, decides which American rabbis are qualified to vouch for Israeli immigrants.

  • The blacklist, obtained by ITIM, an organization that assists immigrants challenged by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, includes all rabbis whose letters of certification have been rejected over the past year [5]. “This list is a badge of shame for the Chief Rabbinate’s behavior toward Diaspora Jewry,” said ITIM director Rabbi Seth Farber [6]. Of the 65 US rabbis on the list, one-fifth are Orthodox.

  • Hours after it was published, Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau said he was “astonished to discover this list [7]” and expressed outrage that it was published without his authorization [8].

  • In June, Israel’s Cabinet advanced a bill to give the Chief Rabbinate authority over all official Jewish conversions within Israel.

Conversation Points:

  • Is the rejection of credentialed Orthodox rabbis an attempt by the Chief Rabbinate to expand its authority over Jewish status issues in the Diaspora?

  • Has the recent string of rulings by the Chief Rabbinate caused harm to its reputation and legitimacy?

  • Should world Jewry have a right to vote for those who wield so much influence over Jewish life?

  • What defines a Jew? Religion, culture, history or bloodline?

In Deal with Israel, PA Takes ‘historic’ Step Toward Energy Independence Dov Lieber, Times of Israel, July 10th 2017

Recap:

The new energy plant in Jenin marks the first time Palestinians can control distribution of electricity to their own towns and cities. "This is a historic and encouraging moment," said Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz. "When you act together, great things can be achieved [9]."

The Context:

  • The station was built by the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) and is owned by the Palestinian Electric Authority (PEA). The IEC trained Palestinians to work, maintain and fix the site.

  • The plant will run on natural gas purchased from Israel with the hope that the PA will one day tap into their own natural gas fields off the shores of Gaza to achieve energy independence.

  • Substations in Hebron, Ramallah and Nablus will soon be built. Once operational, these stations will control power flow across all PA territory.

  • At the inauguration ceremony, PA officials made no reference to the current electricity crisis in Gaza, which has reduced power in the strip to just a few hours daily. The energy dearth is a result of reduced PA funding of Israeli-supplied electricity to the Strip by 35% in an effort to force Hamas to cede control of the area. As an interim measure, Egypt has stepped in to deliver fuel to Gaza’s sole power plant [10].

Conversation Points:

  • Will world opinion ever fully absolve Israel of its responsibility to oversee Palestinian society?

  • Does the PA or Israel bear moral obligation to support civilians in Gaza affected by the Hamas-PA rift?

Notes:

  1. UNESCO decision on Hebron holy site angers Israel officials, Gali Tibbon, CBS News, July 7th 2017

  2. Ibid.

  3. UNESCO declares Hebron Old City a world heritage site, Al Jazeera, July 7th 2017

  4. Haley calls UNESCO Hebron motion ‘an affront to history,’ says US to review ties Eric Cortellessa, Times of Israel, July 7th 2017

  5. Prominent Orthodox Rabbis From U.S. Among Those on Israeli Chief Rabbinate's Blacklist, Judy Maltz, Haaretz, July 9th 2017

  6. ISRAELI CHIEF RABBINATE BLACKLISTS 160 DIASPORA RABBIS, Jeremy Sharon, Jerusalem Post, July 9th 2017

  7. Ibid.

  8. Prominent Orthodox Rabbis From U.S. Among Those on Israeli Chief Rabbinate's Blacklist, Judy Maltz, Haaretz, July 9th 2017

  9. Israel hands over third electricity station to Palestinian Authority, YNetnews, July 10th 2017

  10. Israel minister in rare West Bank visit for electricity deal, Gulf News, July 10th 2017


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