AN AGREEMENT made almost 4,000 years ago and recorded in the Bible has been issued as a UN document,’ said an article in ‘The Jerusalem Post’ on November 7, 1976..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu started Sunday’s cabinet meeting slamming the recent UNESCO decision regarding the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron by quoting extensively from the chapter in Genesis that recorded the sale by Ephron the Hittite to Abraham of the cave where the tomb is situated.
Netanyahu could just as easily have started his censure of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s move to register the tomb as an endangered Palestinian world heritage site by quoting another biblical verse instead, this one from Ecclesiastes (1:9): “What has been is what will be; what has been done is what will be done; There is nothing new under the sun.”
Because, as Labor MK Isaac Herzog pointed out to The Jerusalem Post on Monday, his father, Chaim Herzog – when he served as ambassador to the UN in the mid-1970s – not only quoted from that very same chapter from Genesis in a 1976 Security Council debate about Hebron and the Tomb, but in letter to then-UN secretary-general Kurt Waldheim before the debate actually had the biblical verses chronicling the sale of the cave circulated as an official document to the General Assembly.
“For the first time in history,” read a Jerusalem Post article from November 7, 1976, “an agreement made almost 4,000 years ago and recorded in the Bible has been issued as a UN document.”
According to the report, Waldheim – at Herzog’s request – circulated the 19 verses of Genesis chronicling the sale.
At that time, Israeli control over Hebron and the cave was the subject of a debate at the Security Council because of disturbances on Yom Kippur that year at the site.
During the debate, which came amid an onslaught of anti-Israel resolutions following the notorious “Zionism is Racism” resolution the year before, Herzog displayed the Bible as he quoted the text.
Isaac Herzog, who attended the debate, remembers that the Saudi representative shouted at his father that he was not a Jew, but rather a Khazar.
In his letter to Waldheim, Herzog noted that the Islamic Conference sent to Waldheim a letter of its own dealing with Hebron that completely ignored – as did the recent UNESCO vote – the city’s Jewish religious and historical connections to the city.
“I would like to draw attention to the fact that the plot of land, containing the Tomb of the Patriarchs and held holy by Jews throughout the ages as the ‘Cave of Machpelah,’ was purchased by the Hebrew Patriarch Abraham about 4,000 years ago,” Herzog’s letter read.
Herzog then quoted the 19 verses from the beginning of the Torah portion known as Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23: 2-20) which documents the sale of that plot of land.
After quoting the text, Herzog wrote, “Although of great historical moment and certainly of pertinence to the present day, this transaction was not, of course, registered with the Secretariat in accordance with article 102, paragraph 1, since it was not in the nature of an international agreement and, in addition, it was concluded somewhat prior to the coming into force of the [UN] Charter.”
Article 102, paragraph 1, of the UN Charter states that “every treaty and every international agreement entered into by any member of the United Nations after the present Charter comes into force shall as soon as possible be registered with the Secretariat and published by it.”
Isaac Herzog, when asked what he remembers about the event, said that his father – whose great-grandmother was badly injured during the Hebron massacre of 1929 – was very moved by a letter he received after the incident from Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, the legendary head of the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva, congratulating him for his defense of the Jewish link to Hebron in the world body.
Herzog, in a jab at Israel’s current envoy to UNESCO Carmel Shama HaCohen, said his father’s performance shows that “we need to speak on merit, not only about plumbing and toilets.”
On Friday, after the UNESCO vote passed, Shama Hacohen demonstratively took a call on his cell phone while he was responding to the vote, saying to the chairman of the meeting, “It’s my plumber in my apartment in Paris. There is a huge problem in my toilet, and it is much more important than the decision you just adopted.”