The Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb, both holy sites in Judea and Samaria, will be omitted from Israel’s list of national heritage sites, contrary to a promise made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu two years ago, Army Radio reported Tuesday.
The list of national heritage sites was expected to be approved by the government on Tuesday. Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office insist that the two sites were left off the list for purely logistical reasons, but other government officials suggested that the decision was motivated by fear of worldwide condemnation.
In 2010, Netanyahu announced a list of sites, including the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb, which were slated for rehabilitation and renovation as part of Israel’s National Heritage Program. However, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova expressed concern that inclusion of the two sensitive sites would escalate tensions in the region, and U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry said the sites were “of historical and religious significance not only to Judaism but also to Islam and to Christianity as well.”
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