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UNESCO Sponsors are Complicit in Erasing Jewish History

prayering kotel

  • UNESCO corporate and governmental sponsors need to publically distance themselves from UNESCO as it erases Jewish history
  • Sponsors include Google, Panasonic, A&E, Germany, Smithsonian, EarthWatch and others (list of UNESCO World Heritage Partners)
  • Hijaking of UNESCO’s agenda undermines the legitimacy of it’s noble mission — and continued support of UNESCO means supporting authoritarian, un-democratic, and anti-Semitic governments and institutions

UNESCO unilaterally called on Israel to “stop agression” against Palesinians, and made no mention of terrorism against Israeli citizens, in a resolution that referred to the Western Wall, Temple Mount, Cave of the Patriarchs, and Rachel’s Tomb, solely in Muslim terms. France, Spain (who wants Jews back) and Italy all abstained in the vote:

The vote in Paris was 26 in favor, six against and 15 abstentions. The US, Germany, United Kingdom, Estonia and Netherlands, Czech Republic voted against the resolution while a number of other European countries such as Albania, Austria, Ethiopia, Angola, Spain, France and Italy were among those that abstained.

Originally, UNESCO’s resolution, prepared by the Palestinian Authority and introduced by six Arab states, designated the Kotel or Western Wall as part of al Aqsa Mosque and the tomb of Rachel as the burial place of Bilal Ibn Rabah, a companion of the prophet Mohammed.

The finished draft declared the Cave of the Patriarchs as a Muslim shrine and an integral part of Palestine. Zero mention of it’s Jewish roots.

In addition to exposing the farcical role of UNESCO, the vote proves that those who care about the future of Israel and Jewish connection to the Holy Land must vigorously advocate to upend this travesty. 

This initiative is part of a long process led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that seeks to deny the existence of the Jewish Temples and to erase any Jewish and Christian ties to Jerusalem’s holy sites.

Mr. Abbas has made his intentions veryclear by delcaring that the Temple Mount and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre “are ours”.

It is imperative that those concerned about the situation react by calling, emailing, Facebooking, and Tweeting about this to every UNESCO sponsors – which include Google, Smithsonian, A&E, German Gov – and all mainstream media sources. Other governements that support UNESCO, and those that abstained from voting, need to hear that they are complicit in erasing Jewish history.

It is important that those who care for the future of Israel contact the companies and countries that support UNESCO. They may support good work in some areas – but their public association with UNESCO and continued financial support, means that UNESCO will never change.


Here is some more background info:

At a meeting of ISESCO in Amman in 2011, the motion was introduced that the Western Wall also be called Al-Boraq’s Wall, named for Mohammad’s horse. From time immemorial the site was called the Western Wall/Wailing Wall (Kotel Hamaaravi) and was known to be the outer retaining wall for the site of the Temple. The Palestinians now want to take it a step further by seeking to gain UNESCO recognition of the Wall as part of the Al Aqsa Mosque which was built many centuries after the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 CE. This claim of exclusivity to the holiest sites of the Jewish people and revered sites of Christianity, central to tenants of both religions, is an outrage that would not be tolerated in any other circumstance.

At UNESCO’s World Heritage Council meeting in Bonn, Germany in July 2015, President Abbas advanced the same ideas. The automatic pro-Arab majority in virtually every UN body assures automatic passage of even the most ludicrous and counterproductive proposals. We hope that every nation that respects religious freedom, historical truth and seeks to foster mutual understanding among religious groups, will reject this outrageous resolution. Palestinian leaders have been engaged in incitement claiming in public statements, sermons, broadcasts, media reports, that al Aqsa was “under siege” and calling on Palestinians to rally to its defense. Mr. Abbas also spread this message into neighboring Arab countries. The resulting violence has taken almost 50 lives with many more injured in recent days. By inciting passions over the Temple Mount and fomenting disputes these religious sites, Mr. Abbas is turning a political conflict into a religious war.

The UNESCO Executive Council is expected to take the matter up on Wednesday and it may go to the full plenum, where Palestine is a recognized member state. The resolution declares the Western Wall and Mughrabi Gate are part of al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. The resolution then goes on to condemn the excavations in the Old City despite UNESCO decisions approving them. It condemns “Israeli aggression and illegal measures against the freedom of worship and access of Muslims to al Aqsa Mosque and Israel’s attempt to break the status quo since 1967”. The litany of condemnations includes accusations of attacks by extremists on the mosque, and opposes the building of a cable car in east Jerusalem, and attacks actions by Israel and the IDF in Jerusalem. These charges and the Palestinian drive to de-Judaize Jerusalem and deny the Christian attachment to the holy places, should be the subject of condemnation. Passage of this resolution will be seen as a reward for terrorism and violence of recent days and further exacerbate any chance for meaningful negotiations.

It should be noted that the only desecration of the Temple Mount was as a result of Palestinian actions which destroyed vast archaeologically significant sections. More than 400 tons of debris were taken off the Temple Mount as the Waqf

expanded an underground mosque in Solomon’s Stables. For ten years, volunteers have been sifting through the debris and finding many important antiquities.

People to contact include:

  • CEO of UNESCO, Ms. Irina Bikova at i.bokova@unesco.org and Ms. Marie Paule Roudil, head of the UNESCO Liasion Office to the UN at mp.roudil@unesco.org.

Some prominent partners of UNESCO include;

  • Panasonic USA, @panasonicUSA, is a leading partner.
  • The History Channel, @history, part of A & E, partners with UNESCO
  • Smithsonian, Director is Cristián Samper, (202) 633-1000, @smithsonian
  • German Government supports UNESCO. The embassy number is (202) 298-4000 @germanydiplo
  • Google also partners with UNESCO +1.650.930.3555 @google
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5 Ways to Keep the Spiritual Momentum of the High Holidays

The High Holidays and Sukkot have ended. This marathon of Jewish holy days earned many of us an increased spiritual awareness, sensitivity, and commitment. But how can we maintain that growth throughout the year? Here are five suggestions for maintaining the momentum of the High Holidays:

1 – Honoring Shabbat

Shabbat is a weekly opportunity to unplug and stay in good spiritual health. Meals with family and friends, communal worship, connecting with community, and creating time to rejuvenate are critical elements to Shabbat, and to keeping the High Holiday growth going during the year ahead. What you do to honor Shabbat, will reward you spiritually and materially.

2 – Creating time for daily Torah study

A person who is not engaged in daily Torah study is depriving themselves of the nutrients they need to stay in good spiritual health, nurture their soul and develop a stronger connection with God. I suggest a Chevruta – learning with a partner. While attending classes is important, it’s often passive learning. The real impact of Torah learning on your life comes from having a study partner. Even 5 minutes a day.

3 – Acquire for yourself a Shul Friend

Our sages teach us in Pirkei Avot, “Acquire for yourself a friend”. Be in regular contact with people you spent the holidays with. This is a natural group of people to help you maintain your spiritual strength this year.

4 – Volunteer for Tomchei and other chesed projects

My last Dvar Torah of the holiday season was about the importance of doing someone a favor. You cannot underestimate the power of helping others — both on how it will positively influence your life and those you are helping.

5 – Paying your pledges

Many people make pledges of tzedakah / charity during the Holidays. Whether in memory of someone during Yizkor, or a misheberach after an honor, an auction, it is critical to pay your pledge for the impact in the world to take place.

May you continue to grow and learn, and be blessed with an outpouring of divine favor!

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A Foodie Rosh Hashanah: Appetizers for Personal Growth

Dipping an apple in honey is the most popular in a series of simanim, symbolic foods, associated with the Rosh Hashanah feast. The custom is even recorded as far back as the Talmud. There are many other simanim, some simple and some exotic, that vary by community including: fish, pomegranate, fenugreek, black-eyed peas, carrots, dates, pumpkin, leeks, beets, fish heads or gefilte fish, and even chicken livers.

Some simanim correspond to curses and call for destruction of the enemies of the Jewish people. Some imply that their consumption will improve the general position of the Jewish people amongst the nations. Some are indications for having many children, and some that our merits be recalled and that evil decrees be undone.

So, if these simanim are so powerful then perhaps one could think that we don’t need to plead our case to God. Maybe we could just hold massive date and fish-head eating rallies and instantly safeguard the Jewish people and decimate our enemies? [I wouldn’t have that rally just yet.]

The late 13th century Catalan scholar, Rabbi Menachem Meiri, asked whether the simanim are a prohibited form of sorcery. This was several centuries before the Shulchan Aruch, which has chapter on simanim. The Meiri answered that simanim could be construed as sorcery, but they are really there to prod us into action:

“And so that we do not stumble into the forbidden territory of nichush, sorcery, the rabbis instituted that [along with eating them] one should recite statements that inspire teshuvah. So we say on the gourd that our merits should be ‘recalled before you,’ and on the fenugreek that ‘our merits increase,’ and on the leek ‘our enemies be cut off’ – it is referring to sins, the enemies of our soul – and on beets, ‘our sins be removed,’ and on the date, ‘our iniquities be vanquished etc.’” (Beit Habechirah, Horayot 12a).

So we can understand from the Meiri’s explanation that dipping the challah and apple in honey to symbolize our desire for a sweet and good year cannot on its own bring Hashem’s Mercy. Even though mercy is alluded to in the honey — דבש, honey, has the same gematria as אב הרחמים, Father of Mercy — it cannot be received without teshuvah, resolutions, and sincere prayers to Hashem. We use honey to remind us.

Just eating a sweet Medjool date isn’t going to have an effect on our physical enemies, nor on our internal spiritual enemies. Rather, the date reminds us that we can, and must, fight a battle with the yetzer hara (evil inclination).

Somewhere along the road we might have lost a deeper understanding of this teshuvah technology. We started to think that the simanimthemselves have the power to bring forth change in the world. No matter how much honey we eat, it won’t bring transformational change. However they can inspire change. As one of my students remarked, “It will remind me to look at the sweet things in life and not focus on the bitter.”

But rather than ignore the complex practice of the simanim because we don’t understand how to use it, or are afraid that it borders on sorcery, let’s enhance it.

There is also a wonderful mindfulness element that is part of the ritual, as we offer a kavanah an intention before eating each food. Most of the intentions are connected to a play on words between the Hebrew name of the food item and the desired outcome. (Read them here.)

Consider adding additional simanim (found in most traditional Rosh Hashanah prayer books) to your festive table. It might be pomegranates, heirloom beets or pumpkin pie. Use these as appetizers to start the conversation about teshuvah, prayer and tzedakah. The presence of these simanim foods can guide the Rosh Hashanah meal like the Seder plate guides the Pesach Seder, providing opportunities to share insights into teshuvah and encouragement, and to elevate the spirit.

Wishing you a real foodie Rosh Hashanah! May we all enjoy many delicious simanim as catalysts for the intense inner-work and heartfelt prayer we all need to bring about the changes we seek, and may we our world merit an outpouring of Divine Favor.

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Rabbi Yonah Bookstein is co-founder of Pico Shul, a dynamic spiritual community in Los Angeles dedicated to spiritual growth, Torah learning, and helping others. During summers he operates Shabbat hospitality at national music festivals with Shabbat Tent. Rabbi Yonah also serves as Alevy Rabbi-in-Residence at USC Hillel.

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Undecided Senators Need a Call – Today!

We have spent weeks telling our elected officials: the current Iran Deal is flawed, will increase the likelihood of war and bloodshed in the near future, and will enable Iran to obtain nuclear weapons in almost no-time within 15 years. However, the administration has made it very hard for Senators to vote against the deal. Your phone call, email, Facebook message, or Tweet could help tip the balance on their vote.

Senator Michael Bennet (Colorado)
(202) 224-5852 or (303) 455-7600
Email Contact Form
Senator Cory Booker (New Jersey)
(202) 224-3224 or (973) 639-8700
Email Contact Form
Senator Maria Cantwell (Washington)
(202) 224-3441 or (206) 220-6400
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Senator Ben Cardin (Maryland)
(202) 224-4524 or (202) 224-1651
Email Contact FormSenator Bob Casey, Jr. (Pennsylvania)
(202) 224-6324 or (215) 405-9660
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Senator Chris Coons (Delaware)
(202) 224-5042 or (302) 736-5601
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Senator Joe Donnelly (Indiana)
(202) 224-4814 or (812) 425-5862
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Senator Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota)
(202) 224-2043 or (701) 258-4648
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Senator Mazie Hirono (Hawaii)
(202) 224-6361 or (808) 522-8970
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Senator Ed Markey (Massachusetts)
(202) 224-2742 or (617) 565-8519
Email Contact FormSenator Barbara Mikulski (Maryland)
(202) 224-4654 or (410) 962-4510
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Senator Patty Murray (Washington)
(202) 224-2621 or (206) 553-5545
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Senator Gary Peters (Michigan)
(202) 224-6221 or (313) 226-6020
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Senator Debbie Stabenow (Michigan)
(202) 224-4822 or (313) 961-4330
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Senator Jon Tester (Montana)
(202) 224-2644 or (406) 586-4450
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Senator Mark Warner (Virginia)
(202) 224-2023 or (804) 775-2314
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Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island)
(202) 224-2921 or (401) 453-5294
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Senator Ron Wyden (Oregon)
(202) 224-5244 or (503) 326-7525
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