UNESCO moves Land of Israel exhibit to June


The exhibit, “People, Book, Land: The 3,500-year relationship of the Jewish People with the Holy Land,”  was postponed in response to a protest letter from the Arab League, who fear it ‘could damage the peace process’.




UNESCO now eyes a June date for an exhibit on Jewish ties to the Land of Israel, after it suddenly canceled the scheduled Monday opening at its Paris headquarters, in response to a protest by Arab states who fear it could damage the peace process.

The exhibit at UNESCO headquarters in Paris just needed to be installed.

Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to open the exhibit as planned on January 20, or to schedule a new opening.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, who partnered with UNESCO to create the exhibit, made the same call in press conferences it held Monday in Paris and at its center in Los Angeles.


UNESCO on its website and in letters to the Center had always said the exhibit was postponed. The absence of an alternative date, however, gave the impression that the exhibit had been canceled.

But on Tuesday, UNESCO posted a note on its web site in which it reaffirmed that the exhibit had only been postponed, but not canceled.

“UNESCO is in discussions with the Simon Wiesenthal Center to finalize the last points and inaugurate the exhibition in the month of June,” it stated.

The center’s dean and founder Rabbi Marvin Hier told The Jerusalem Post that on Monday afternoon Los Angeles time, he had spoken for 45 minutes with UNESCO’s director-general Irina Bokova about the issue. Representatives from the center had also met with UNESCO staff in Paris that same day, he said.

“We see it as a positive sign that they posted on their web site,” said Hier.

The United States, Israel and Canada had publicly urged the United Nations


UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova with Simon Wiesenthal Center Dean Rabbi Marvin Hier, next to a panel announcing the exhibit in 2012. – Photo: Courtesy

But in light of the events of the last week, Hier said, he wanted confirmation of a new date in writing before he could believe that the matter had been resolved.

His center, Hier said, had worked with UNESCO for close to two years on the exhibit, originally titled “People, Book, Land — the 3,500 year relationship of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel.” It commissioned Hebrew University Professor Robert Wistrich to author the content. All elements of the exhibit were approved and vetted by UNESCO, said Hier.

Even at the last moment, the center agreed to replace the phrase “Land of Israel” with “Holy Land,” he said.

Last Monday UNESCO sent out invitations to the exhibit, which had already been mounted in its Paris headquarters.

On Tuesday UNESCO received a letter from the 22 states in its Arab Group which said it feared that such an exhibit would be detrimental to the peace process. Hours after holding a planning session with the center on Tuesday, UNESCO decided to postpone the exhibit.

Hier had charged that the issue was not peace, but that the exhibit showed Jews had ancient biblical and historical ties to the Land of Israel.

Israel, the US and Canada, he said, played key roles in swaying UNESCO to consider June as a possible new exhibit date. He particularly thanked the US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power for her strong statement of support. “She has indicated that she wants to bring the exhibit to New York,” he said.


View original Jerusalem Post publication at: http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/UNESCO-looks-to-hold-Land-of-Israel-exhibit-in-June-338941