Thousands of Christians from around the world are visiting Jerusalem this week tracing the footsteps of Jesus through the cobbled winding streets of the Old City as they do every Sukkot, one of the three Jewish festivals where Jews made the pilgrimage to the Temple centuries ago, but now a UNESCO resolution negates these events ever happened.
It is hardly shocking that Iran, along with several Arab countries, voted in favor of the draft resolution by the UN cultural body last week, in a move widely viewed as denying the historic and religious ties between Jews and Jerusalem.
But among all the many absurdities of that paper, I was stunned by the fact that Latin American powerhouses Brazil and Mexico along with Nicaragua and Dominican Republic embraced the resolution.
The latest figures from the Pew Research Center show that in these countries and the rest of Latin America the vast majority of the populations identify as Christians (69% of the total population is Catholic, 19% is Protestant).
Surely these countries understand that by diminishing Jewish history, UNESCO de facto negated Christian ties to the holy city as well.
For if there was no Jewish temple as UNESCO insinuates then Jesus could never have set foot there as detailed in Scripture.
Pastor Mario Bramnick, President of the Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition (HILC) said his organization “condemns UNESCO’s decision which denies the historical Jewish and Christian connection to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.”
Pastor Bramnick told Fuente Latina, a US non-profit working with Hispanic media covering Israel and the Mideast, that “Jerusalem and the Temple Mount were originally under Jewish control with later Christian influence. Jesus taught, prayed and performed miracles in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount during the time of the Second Temple.”
In case you missed it, UNESCO green-lighted a resolution on Thursday called “Occupied Palestine” that names holy sites, including the location where the Jewish temples stood in biblical times, by their Islamic names only and put Jewish names for them in inverted commas, which questions their authenticity. And this is by the body created by the UN in part to advance understanding between cultures.
The draft resolution, sponsored by several Arab countries, was of course not the first time that Palestinians and others have exploited the UN to taint Israel’s image. But this time the move hit Jews and Christians around the world on a deeper level than before, as Jerusalem and its holy sites are at the heart of the faiths.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dubbed the resolution “absurd” after it was announced and later tweeted: What’s next? A UNESCO decision denying the connection between peanut butter and jelly? Batman and Robin? Rock and roll?”
Similar, if more restrained, reactions came from many communities around the world.
But the resolution was mostly met with apathy in Latin America. Brazil, Mexico, Dominican Republic and Nicaragua all historically have good relations with Israel and they all have very large Christian populations. However, in 2010, Nicaragua suspended ties with Israel.
Although governments in those countries mostly remained passive, both Christians and Jews in the Spanish speaking world are expressing their outrage over the vote and demanding answers from their representatives.
Thousands of Hispanic Christians and Jews from around the world signed several petitions to reverse UNESCO’s decision. A Spanish language social media movement, #SomosIsrael (We are Israel), initiated by Hispanic Christians, took to Twitter the night the resolution was signed and became a top trending topic in several Latin American countries, generating over five million impressions in one day and days later still continues strong.
The united voices show support for Israel and outrage for the rewriting of history with a clear demand for action so those Latin American countries reconsider their position before the final vote on the resolution this Tuesday.
Mexico has since changed its stance, withdrawing support for the UNESCO resolution and forcing a new vote. Let’s see if Brazil, Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua follow suit.
Leah Soibel is founder and CEO of Fuente Latina, a US non-profit, non-governmental organization that removes geographic and linguistic barriers for global Spanish language media covering stories about Israel and the Mideast. With offices in Jerusalem, Madrid, and Miami, FL is the only organization of its kind engaging international Latino media in their language and in real time. www.fuentelatina.org