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Statement by the Director-General of UNESCO on the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls
on the occasion of the 40th session of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO in Istanbul
In response to numerous letters and public statements addressed to her concerning the 40th session of the World Heritage committee and the Old Town of Jerusalem, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova wishes to recall that the Old City of Jerusalem is the sacred city of the three monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
"The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities have a right to the explicit recognition of their history and relationship with the city. To deny or conceal any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site, and runs counter to the reasons that justified itsinscription in 1981 as a World Heritage site.
35 years after the inscription of the site, the role and commitment of the World Heritage Committee is precisely to uphold the spirit of this historic decision. At the time, discussions and expert assessments made during the examination of the site concluded that the outstanding universal value of the City lies notably in this coherent synthesis, which must be protected in its integrity.
This requirement is stronger than ever, when the city of Jerusalem is witnessing violence, fueling divisions and harming the multi-faith character of the Old City. I am concerned about the way physical violence is being associated with symbolic violence, as well as the will to erase history and instrumentalize culture.
When these divisions carry over onto UNESCO, an Organization dedicated to dialogue and peace, it prevents us from carrying out our mission. As Director-General of UNESCO, it is my responsibility to forcefully recall the significance of the universal value of the Old City of Jerusalem and the need to transmit it to future generations. Thirty-five years after the inscription of Jerusalem on the World Heritage List, this determination has never been stronger,” declared the Director-General.