Why does the UN love these Israeli caves? Jesus Christ Superstar, obvs!

What makes a place so special that it might be considered the inheritance of all humanity — a World Heritage site, as it were?

If you were to consult UNESCO’s list of World Heritage criteria, you would see that the international body that determines such status considers ten benchmarks. Does the site “bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization,” for instance, does it “contain superlative natural phenomena”? All those things are, no doubt, very important.

But when it comes to one of the most recent additions to the U.N.’s list, Israel’s Beit Guvrin Bell Caves, there’s even less doubt as to what the real reason was: “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

Oh, you won’t find a hint of the rock opera in UNESCO’s announcement, or in any of the various press reports — but trust me.

The Bell Caves served as the location par excellence for a crucial early set piece in the 1973 film version of the musical, directed by Norman Jewison. The disciples and their women have set up camp (goats and all) more or less at the feet of Jesus, and are exuberantly demanding to know (in the parlance of the time): “What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a-happenin’!” Jesus insists that even if they knew the path they trod, they wouldn’t understand, but the excited acolytes will not be dissuaded. Mary Magdalene comes along and soothes Jesus with a cool face-and-foot wash, and Jesus allows as only she knows what he really needs.

But then! A drastic tonal change: In comes Judas….

To read the rest, please click through to The Forward.

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On a Palestinian childhood. + Building a wall? Not political. Protecting a church? TOTALLY political.

I forgot to post last week’s bi-weekly Open Zion/Daily Beast column! And in the meantime, I posted something short today! So here’s the top of the first post, and since the events I write about at the top of the second post were mentioned here last week, I give you the middle of that one, instead of the top (did you follow that? Excellent).

Palestinian Children

Those of us who advocate for a just Israeli-Palestinian peace (however defined) make a point of clarifying that each side has seen enormous suffering, and we’re right to do so. There are no angels and very few innocents in this war–there’s far more ugly dehumanization, bloodletting, and endless, inconsolable mourning.

But surely if anyone’s innocent, if anyone has a right to claim our non-ideological attention, it’s Israeli and Palestinian children, people born into a conflict not of their making, and thrust into violence through no fault of their own. Shalhevet Pass was only 10 months old when she was killed; Abir Aramin 10 years. Shalhevet was shot in her stroller in Hebron; Abir was shot when the Israeli border patrol opened fire on suspected stone-throwers. The facts surrounding these children’s deaths cannot mitigate them in any way; these are two little girls buried in the ground. There is no excuse or absolution.

But when we talk about each side’s enormous suffering–when I name two children, one Israeli, one Palestinian–and leave it at that, we make it sound as if the scales weigh equally, as if the suffering can be effectively compared. But that’s simply not true. ­

One dead child is one too many. Period. But we’re lying to ourselves if we think that it doesn’t matter that in the past 12 years, 90 Israeli children have died at the hands of Palestinians, while Israel has been responsible for the deaths of 1,331 Palestinian children (note that this figure doesn’t include those killed in airstrikes this month).

And death and bereavement are hardly the only troubles that this conflict brings to a Palestinian childhood.

… for the rest, please click here.

Whose Unilateralism is it, Anyway?

…It could be argued that taking a stand against the UN recognizing the birthplace of Jesus is kind of bone-headed. That Israel could have totally said something like “The birthplace of Jesus is a site revered by millions of Christians around the world, and we agree that it must be protected. We look forward to working with UNESCO on this vital task,” and in so doing, won the hearts and minds of many, not to mention taking the sting out of the Palestinians’ miniscule victory.

But leaving that aside (because really, what am I expecting, miracles?), here’s some news that the AFP reported yesterday about another set of actions there are political and unilateral and “only make peace more distant,” also in the Bethlehem area:

Israel will resume construction of its controversial West Bank barrier within the next few weeks after a five-year delay….

…Work will initially resume around the group of settlements near Bethlehem known as Gush Etzion.

to read the rest of this happy tale, please click here.

UNESCO declares Church of the Nativity a World Heritage Site; Israel and the US throw a tantrum.

How does one even begin to respond to this:

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israel and the United States blasted the UN cultural agency Friday after it recognized holy sites in the city of Bethlehem by adding them to a world heritage list.

“This is proof that UNESCO is motivated by political and not cultural considerations,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement following the decision.

“Instead of taking steps to promote peace, the Palestinians are acting unilaterally, which makes peace more distant,” Reuters quoted the statement as saying.

…The US ambassador to UNESCO, David Killion, said he was “profoundly disappointed by the decision”.

The birthplace of the baby Jesus has been declared a World Heritage Site, and because the people who asked UNESCO to do it were Palestinians, it’s a unilateral move motivated by anti-Israel sentiment that “makes peace more distant.” The birthplace of the baby Jesus. 

AND THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION WHO I LOVE SO MUCH AGREES.

There are not enough desks in this world for me to :: headdesk :: upon.

But don’t forget kids! Settlements are not the problem. They don’t “make peace more distant,” like, at all.

h/t Maan News Agency