According to the Talmud, 10 measures of beauty were given to the world, and nine were taken by Jerusalem. Apparently, the New 7 Wonders of the World (N7W) campaign was not aware of this, because none of the finalists for the modern world's Seven World Wonders competition includes one from Jerusalem.
"No Israeli monuments made it to the top 21, and I have to say that I don't think any places in Israel were in the final 77 either," Tia Viering, spokeswoman for N7W, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. "We have received emails about the Wailing [Western] Wall and I know there are other beautiful places in Jerusalem and in Israel, but I don't believe any of them were chosen."
The Swiss-based non-profit foundation established in 2000 has set 07.07.07 (which happens to fall on a Saturday) as the date when the new seven wonders will be announced at a mega media event to be broadcast around the world from Lisbon.
Its panel of seven architecture experts, chaired by former UNESCO head Prof. Federico Mayor, has whittled down the top 77 nominees (from the original 200 sites chosen in a global public vote) to a short list of 21 finalists, and N7W has just launched its world tour of the sites.
Citizens of the world may vote for the new seven wonders on-line or by telephone. The purported aim of the organization is to raise cultural heritage awareness world-wide through its global voting Web site, new7wonders.com.
A huge PR effort (claiming to have already attracted the attention of a quarter of the planet's population) promises the world's "first-ever and largest global vote."
So far, Viering said, some 20 million people have voted around the world, and she urged Israelis to participate in the poll: "The more coverage we get, the better," she said. "It takes a while to get through, but put it in your paper. And tell your friends and your kids. It's a great project for schools. It's really democracy in action, the ultimate democracy."
The only criterion for the new list is that the monuments were built or discovered before 2000.
Were any sites in Israel considered? What about the three structures in the Old City so holy to the three monotheistic religions: not just the Western Wall, but also the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and Dome of the Rock? Outside of Jerusalem, did anyone vote for the Baha'i Temple in Haifa?
"I do not believe that any Israeli monuments were on the 77 most-nominated candidates or the original 200 voted around the world," said Viering. "But you might want to check on our site in the Press&News/Press Information area."
Sure enough, a check of the site showed there were no Israeli candidates.
The N7W home page offers information on how to vote, the campaign's world tour, press packages and educational material for children and schools. And a sophisticated on-line shop offers a range of products for sale including holidays and travel, books, clothing, coins and stamps, toys, CDs and DVDs.
Beginning last month, the N7W world tour - featuring a huge hot-air balloon and a hi-tech airship - is visiting all of the 21 finalists, allowing them to showcase their cultural significance.
From the Acropolis in Athens on September 5, 2006 to the Statue of Liberty in New York on March 6, 2007, an official certificate will be presented to each candidate at a special ceremony to which the media are invited. On Tuesday, the world tour was at the Alhambra in Granada, and its next stop is the Great Wall of China on November 7.
"Apart from the Pyramids, the seven ancient wonders of the world no longer exist," said Viering. "We've just been in Granada, and it was spectacular. It's in the news now because we're now visiting all 21 monuments and have just finished the European leg of our world tour."
The Pyramids of Giza are, in fact, the only one of the old wonders, named by Philon of Byzantium in 200 BCE, on the new list too.
Competing with it are other ancient structures such as Britain's Stonehenge and the Colosseum in Rome as well as modern landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Sydney Opera House (by far the most recent of the finalists).
Israel might take comfort in the fact that even the world's superpower has not managed to construct a skyscraper that qualifies.
The only building in the United States to make the final list is the Statue of Liberty - ironically, a gift to the US from France closed to the public after 9/11. (One wonders if the Twin Towers would have made the list.)
The organizers have signed a media deal for television programming across Europe (including Israel) with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), known locally for its supervision of the Eurovision Song Contest.
N7W was founded as a spontaneous millennium project by Bernard Weber, a Swiss Canadian adventurer, film producer, curator and aviator, and has grown into a coordinated multimedia campaign, through partnerships with industry leaders.
"The Internet is perhaps the only democratic means of distributing information around the world since it is free to everyone who has access to a computer and telephone network," said Weber in a statement. "That is why we are urging the world's population to participate in this free vote, which pays tribute to our collective global cultural heritage."
Half of all net revenues raised by N7W go towards restoration efforts worldwide. In a press release issued from its headquarters in Zurich this month, it launched a new world project: the reconstruction of a giant Buddha statue in Afghanistan destroyed in March 2001.
Some religious monuments have been chosen in its final 21 for the new world wonders (such as the Redeemer Statue of Jesus in Rio de Janeiro), and there is another site in the Middle East that made the cut: Petra, the ancient red-rock Nabatean city which cost several Israelis their lives while trying to visit before a peace deal had been struck with Jordan.
Since there are no sites in Israel, Petra and the Pyramids are about as close as Israelis are going to get to the new seven wonders of the world. And because Jordan and Egypt are the only Arab countries with which Israel has signed peace treaties, perhaps Israelis might consider voting for them.
"We'll be in the Middle East in January, the second Tuesday in Petra and the last Tuesday in Cairo," said Viering, adding as an afterthought: "And we'd love to see Israeli journalists there."
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