TEL AVIV – God promised the Holy Land to the people of Israel, Pope Francis said during a speech at the Vatican on Wednesday.
“The people of Israel, who from Egypt, where they were enslaved, walked through the desert for forty years until they reached the land promised by God,” he said in his address about migration.
His address came before giving an audience to Arab-Israeli Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation Ayoub Kara in which he thanked him for his efforts on behalf of Christians in Israel.
According to Kara, the Pope was sending a direct message to UNESCO, whose World Heritage Committee approved a resolution hours before that ignored Jewish and Christian ties to the Temple Mount.
Kara thanked Pope Francis for acknowledging Israel’s rights to the Holy Land and added that there is no question that the resolution harms Christians because it “distorts historical and theological facts.”
On Thursday, Kara is slated to meet with Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Cardinal Parolin.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein wrote a letter to Cardinal Parolin in which he urged the pontiff to “use its best offices to prevent the recurrence of developments of this sort.”
The UNESCO resolution, Edelstein wrote, “is an assault on history and is deeply offensive to both Christianity and Judaism. The denial of the historicity of the two Jerusalem Temples and the Temple Mount as recounted in both the Old and New Testaments is a terrible indictment of the international community when repeatedly adopted by an important UN body.
“The outrageous repudiation of the millennia-old bond between Judaism and its holiest shrines in Jerusalem is a blatant attempt to rewrite history,” he added. “The annals of both our religions cannot be erased by raised hands and counted votes.”
Edelstein said that a new resolution is needed to reaffirm Israel’s capital as holy for the three major monotheistic religions, “a city where the two Temples stood and from which the Word of God was first promulgated to humanity by our prophets.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett slammed the resolution as being “a denial of history, and history will erase the embarrassing decision.”
He added that Israel would suspend any cooperation with UNESCO.
Jewish Home chairwoman Shuli Moalem-Refaeli slammed Arabs in Israel and elsewhere for their “glorious record of harming Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy sites.”
“They also have an impressive record of rewriting history in a way that shames international institutions,” she added.
“If we were never here and Jesus was a Palestinian, then I suggest that UNESCO condemn the Palestinians for crucifying Jesus,” Moalem-Refaeli said.