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Following the occupation of the Israeli military forces, Hebron, a Palestinian city located in the West Bank, has been plagued by war for many years. It is the largest city in the West Bank and is known as the Old City of Hebron. Hebron is known for its winding streets and old market places or bazaars, which populate street corners and are a large part of Palestinian culture. The Old City of Hebron is interesting, beautiful, and has finally been recognized for these qualities and its diverse and unique culture in the United Nations’ decision to acknowledge Hebron as a World Heritage Site.
There are many UN World Heritage Sites scattered across the globe, such as the Great Wall of China and the Barrier Reef in Australia. World Heritage Sites are eligible for funding, and the Old City of Hebron has been placed on the list of World Heritage Sites in danger due to the occupation, which makes it eligible for additional funding, as well as annual visits carried out by the UN to evaluate the situation.
What does this ruling mean for the people of Hebron? Al Jazeera reporter Nigel Wilson interviewed a native of Hebron, who stated that the ruling meant a great deal to the people, as “nobody sees our lives or culture; no one sees how we live here, so to have this global recognition is special.”
Palestinians face human rights violations daily from the occupying Israeli forces, and many are hoping that this ruling will bring the Old City into the public eye and increase the levels of tourism, which may subsequently decrease the human rights violations.
Unfortunately, as with any decision affecting two groups with different views, there has been controversy attached to the decision. For instance, the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that this decision denied Jewish ties to the site, as it had been named a Palestinian Heritage Site. He stated that it was “another delusional decision by UNESCO.” However, the United Nations has fought back against these claims, stating that the site is home to many religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. In naming the site a World Heritage Site, the UN is ensuring that the site is preserved so that all cultures can enjoy it.
As such, in order to ensure the quality of life and economic activity that thrives in the Old City, this ruling was seen as being essential. Hopefully, the additional funding and increased UN activity in the area will help to diffuse the situation in the Old City in order to enable the land to be used by people of all religions, whether they are Judaist, Christian or Islamic. While adding another site to an already long list of World Heritage Sites may seem to be a small step in regards to world peace, it is still a step in the right direction.