THE UNESCO AND JERUSALEM “Italy Should Give Voice to the Truth”

di-segni-mattarellaAfter Italy abstained in the vote on a resolution that fails to recognize the bond between Jerusalem and the Jewish people in October, the President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities Noemi Di Segni sent a letter to the highest ranking state officials. She further launched an appeal to Italian President Sergio Mattarella ahead of his visit to Israel.
The following are the full texts of the messages. 

October 14, 2016
Honourable President of the Republic, Honourable Presidents of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, Honourable President of the Council of Ministers, Italian Permanent delegation to UNESCO,

I am writing you on behalf of all Italian Jewish Communities and of all Italian Jewish citizens, but certain that I am also voicing the sentiments of followers of other faiths who feel equally indignant.

A few hours ago UNESCO voted by a large majority a resolution that denies the Jewish identity of some sites in Jerusalem including the Western Wall, the holiest site to Jews worldwide.
It was a shocking, dangerous and dreadful decision, that has no precedents in the history of this organization. The vote not only constitutes a de facto denial of thousands years of Jewish history in the one, indivisible capital of the State of Israel. It also rewrites the entire history of Christianity, strictly interwoven with those places, these stones, this heritage.

When called to cast its vote Italy incomprehensibly decided to abstain, thereby casting a shadow, with this decision, on its solid friendship with the State of Israel and the Jewish people. In our view that choice was an insult to the fundamental values of Italy itself, to the principles of the Constitution and to Europe as a whole, called to vigorously oppose all attempts to distortion, denial and historical revisionism.

The Western Wall of Jerusalem was inaccessible to Jews until 1967, when the city was liberated from Jordanian occupation. It is only since then, since the day the city was reunited and unified by the Israeli administration gained control of the city, that Jerusalem truly became a city that is open to all religion, and the Kotel finally became a site for meditation and universal prayers.

In the coming days this resolution will undergo a final vote. We therefore call upon the highest national institutions of the Italian State to ensure that other Countries give voice to ftruth and freedom by expressing their determined defence of those values that today unite the peoples of the world, thereby recovering what remains of the United Nations’ credibility, also in the light of the new path that is being paved.

We hope that next Tuesday we will be able to read a completely different resolution that invites all those living in Jerusalem and those who gather in the City and at its holy sites, to acknowledge the special historical and religious significance for all faiths, encouraging every person to recite the very same prayer for life, albeit each in his own language.

Kind regards,

Noemi Di Segni

October 26, 2016

Hon President Sergio Mattarella,

Your departure for the anticipated visit to Israel, the first in your mandate as President of the Republic, is fast approaching.
Ahead of this momentous event, I hereby wish to share our feelings as Italian Jews, citizens who believe in peace and progress.
Your visit promises to be intense and highly significant, aimed at reaffirming the historic friendship that ties the Jewish State to Italy, to its representatives, to its people and culture.
Today Italy and Israel work side by side in facing many challenges. They enjoy close collaboration at institutional levels and this visit is a prime example. Our cooperation extends into many other areas, with a continuous flow of people, ideas and projects that strengthen our common commitment to serve society as a whole by contributing to its economic, intellectual and spiritual well-being.
The heritage of Judaism and Christianity which stretches back thousands of years, from Jerusalem to Rome, two capitals of Mediterranean civilization, testifies to a thriving relationship, at times conflictual but rich in history, historical events, hopes sometimes betrayed, conquests and achievements often marked by miraculous outcomes.
Consequently, Italian Jews, together with all citizens who identify with the fundamental value of living truth, who act in good faith and utter transparency, who believe and have deep confidence in the highest democratic institutions, were appalled and hurt by the behaviour of Italy’s representatives to UNESCO in the month of October this year.
Following the proposal of a number of Arab Countries, coupled by others that voted in favour, the Jewish identity of Jerusalem and of its historical places of prayer and worship, of tears and joyful celebrations, of hymns to life and restored freedom, has been denied. Many civilizations have violated and destroyed our Temple in the past. For many reasons, pilgrims have come travelling long distances from distant origins. How could anyone fail to understand that today uncivilized extremist factions of all sorts are seeking destruction and annihilation? How can UNESCO, the UN agency for cultural development, venture to express itself in this way?
For two times, within a few days from each other, despite clear signs of alarm, the Italian representative made the choice of abstention and remained silent, a silence that is oblivious to the images carved on the Arch of Titus: a deafening silence. A silence that contributes to propagating the denial of history, a practice that we all decry today.
Dear Mr. President, in a few days you will have the opportunity to visit Jerusalem, to walk along the streets where every stone bears witness to a city that is the capital of the reborn State of Israel, home to all those who yearn for peace; to cross the threshold of the sites that are holy to the three great monotheistic religions; to experience the daily life of the inhabitants of this unique city. You will see that every corner of Jerusalem, the unique and indivisible capital of the State of Israel, speaks a language that dates back thousands of years. It is the language of identity, of spirituality, of a most authentic mutual respect.
Among hundreds of inscriptions, artistic creations, religious and epical chants, more frequently happy than sad, dedicated to Jerusalem across the centuries, I wish to mention those on the KOTEL (words by Yosi Gamzu), whose heart-rending music teaches us that regardless of what is heard and seen, regardless of our attire, what truly counts is what we have donated and sacrificed in the course of the millennia and until today: “There are stones with a human heart and men with a heart of stone”. This is deeply true.

Dear Mr. President, I’m writing you because Italian Jews are confident that your high office shall rekindle an attitude of balance and wisdom, the only attitude capable of representing all the identities and citizens of our Country, thereby reaffirming the utmost importance of our Constitutional values.

We have no other request apart from upholding the honour of Italy and assuring a central role to our Country in the framework of the immense peace-building efforts to which we are all committed.

Noemi Di Segni