UNESCO exhibit about Jews in Israel opens in Buenos Aires

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — A UNESCO exhibition about the Jewish presence in the land of Israel that sparked controversy has gone on display for the first time translated into Spanish.

“People, Book, Land: The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People with the Holy Land,” which was co-created by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, is on display at the government Centro Cultural Kirchner in Buenos Aires through March 31.

The 24 panels of pictures and texts that documents the Jewish presence in the Holy Land was preceded by two controversies.

Its original opening at UNESCO headquarters in Paris in January 2014 was delayed after complaints by 22 Arab countries.

”We explained to UNESCO experts every panel and made very minor changes with a clear red line,” the Wiesenthal Center’s Shimon Samuels told JTA. “We always will defend the integrity of the Jewish narrative.”

After negotiations and a six-month delay, the exhibition was inaugurated at UNESCO in Paris.

Last year’s UNESCO vote denying a Jewish connection to the Old City of Jerusalem also was controversial.

“I can’t talk about politics, I just can say that the response is this exhibition itself,” Dr. Graciela Vaserman Samuels, adviser to the UNESCO director-general, told JTA.

At the ceremony launching the exhibit, Vaserman read a message on behalf UNESCO’s director-general, Irina Bokova.

“The exhibition is a response to all those who seek to spread lies to fuel anti-Semitism, including a persistent delegitimization of Israel and the Jewish people,” the message said.

Yuval Rotem, director general of Israe’s Foreign Ministry, blamed the “politically motivated UN resolutions that denied the connection between the Jewish people and their home.” He added: “This exhibition is the ultimate answer.”

The panels include maps, pictures and text tracing Jewish history from Abraham to David, the Crusades to the British Mandate, the Holocaust, Soviet aliyah and the “Start-up Nation.”

“We start with Abraham to know where we come from. We end with Waze so we don’t get lost,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean.

After Buenos Aires, the Spanish version will be presented in Santiago, the capital of Chile.

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