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Israeli PM to hold seminar on Jewish history following UN Aqsa decision

May 6, 2016 7:43 P.M. (Updated: May 7, 2016 2:23 P.M.)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, on May 10, 2015 � Pool/AFP Sebastian Scheine
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in a statement Friday that he would be holding an educational seminar for UN personnel on Jewish history, following a recent decision by UNESCO that ignored Jewish ties to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and strongly condemned Israeli violations regarding status quo on the site.

“Two weeks ago I was shocked to hear UNESCO adopted a decision denying Jewish connection to the Temple Mount,” Netanyahu said in the statement.

“Therefore, I am announcing a seminar on Jewish history for all UN personnel in Israel. I will personally host the lecture at the PM's Office.”

The UNESCO draft decision, released April 11, referred to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound -- known to Jews as the Temple Mount -- as a “Muslim Holy Site of worship and as an integral part of a World Cultural Heritage Site.”

The decision also condemned Israel -- “the occupying power” -- for restricting access to the site for Muslim worshipers, the storming of the site by right-wing Israeli extremists under armed guard, and called on Israel to restore the status quo that designates Jordan the exclusive authority on the compound.

“It is hard to believe anyone, let alone an organization tasked with preserving history, could deny this (Jewish) link which spans thousands of years,” Netanyahu’s statement continued.

He added that the seminar would be lead by a “leading Jewish history scholar” and would “be free to UN staff and diplomats, including of countries which voted for this decision.”

The third holiest site in Islam, Al-Aqsa is also venerated as Judaism’s most holy place, as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood.

While Jewish visitation is permitted to the compound, non-Muslim worship is prohibited according to an agreement signed between Israel and the Jordanian government after Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.

Despite this agreement, the Israeli authorities regularly allow Jewish visitors to enter the site -- often under armed guard. Such visits are typically made by right-wingers attempting to unsettle the status quo at the site, and coincide with restrictions on Palestinian access, including bans on entrance and detentions.

Tensions around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound contributed to the recent escalation of violence after right-wing Israelis made frequent visits to the site during a succession of Jewish holidays last fall.

Tensions increased at Al-Aqsa yet again as right-wingers toured the site for the Passover holiday last week, which saw the banning of some 70 Palestinians from the site, several Israeli extremists evacuated, and weekly visits for Palestinians from the Gaza Strip suspended for two consecutive weeks.

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