Israel handed a replica of a frieze from the Arch of Titus to the head of UNESCO, using the monument commemorating Rome’s victory over Jerusalem for a not-so-subtle critique of the organisation’s resolutions that ignore Jewish links to the holy city.
The idea originally came from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, after the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organisation passed a resolution last year that used only Muslim names for the Jerusalem Old City holy sites.
The replica will be exhibited in UNESCO’s Paris headquarters as a “greeting from the historical truth about the existence of two Temples on the Temple Mount,” said Carmel Shama-Hacohen, Israel’s ambassador to the agency.
Shama-Hacohen handed the replica to UNESCO’s outgoing director-general Irina Bokova, who, in her speech, offered a more subtle critique of one-sided anti-Israel resolutions passed routinely by her organisation’s member states.
“2,000 years ago the Romans destroyed the Temple and removed it from the Jewish people. And today, UNESCO is trying to destroy and remove the history of Jerusalem from the Jewish people,” Shama-Hacohen said at the event.
“When the executive board of UNESCO adopts every six months a resolution that denies the connection between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount, they are not only adopting a political resolution, they are adopting a resolution that negates the right of the State of Israel to exist and the Jewish people’s right of self-determination,” he said.
Furthermore, such resolutions “pave the way for spreading antisemitism and terrorism,” Shama-Hacohen went on.
Built in the year 82 CE, the Arch of Titus commemorates Rome’s victory over the Jews and subsequent siege of Jerusalem 12 years earlier. It depicts Roman soldiers carrying away the grand menorah that was used by the high priests in the destroyed Jewish Temples, and is seen by many Jews as proof of the Jewish people’s connection to Jerusalem.
“The Arch of Titus in Rome illustrates a most tragic event in the history of the Jewish people, bearing witness also to the millennial relationship between the Jewish people and the city of Jerusalem,” Bokova said at the event.