Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, acclaimed author of over 20 books and a frequent Arutz Sheva columnist, is considered today's foremost expert on anti-Semitism. In fact, a review of his recent and timely book on modern day anti-Semitism, The War of a Million Cuts, can be read on Arutz Sheva.
It was only natural, then, that he attended this week's opening in the Knesset of the Simon Wiesenthal Center-UNESCO exhibition "People, Book, Land: The 3500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People to the Holy Land."
Another reason for his attendance was that the author of the exhibition was his late good friend, Prof. Robert Wistrich, head of Hebrew University's Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism and a world-famous expert on the subject as well, who died suddenly several months ago.
At the event, chaired by Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Center and hosted by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud), the Simon Wiesenthal International Leadership Award was granted to Dr. Gerstenfeld and to Danielle Wistrich in memory of her late husband
Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Dr. Gerstenfeld said that he had had no idea that the honor was to be conferred upon him until he arrived at the Knesset, and, talking about his friend, stressed the importance of a visual exhibit that can show the Jewish people's connection with the land from the dawn of its history and the centrality it has in Jewish tradition.
Rabbi Cooper said that Israel's need to respond to the world's delegitimization and denial of Jewish historical rights in its land was the motivating factor leading the Wiesenthal center to initiate the exhibition, convince UNESCO to back it and charge Prof. Wistrich with creating it.
“In 2015, Israel is under constant assault in an asymmetrical war to demonize, delegitimize and deny her history, deny her values, deny her very right to be counted as an equal among the nations,” he said.
“All Jews are targets, from the streets of Jerusalem to the campuses of our universities. How should lovers of Zion respond? By telling the truth, the truth about an unparalleled love affair between the people and its homeland.”
"Our truth-teller, of blessed memory, was a respected scholar and a prolific author", he continued, alluding to the late Professor Wistrich. "For decades, armed only with the truth, Robert took on intellectual anti-Semites and a world largely apathetic to history’s oldest hate.”
This is the first time, thanks to the Simon Wiesenthal Center's efforts, that the United Nations has hosted an exhibit that outlines the rationale for the UN decision to grant recognition to a Jewish state in the land of Israel. The exhibition was originally scheduled to open on January 20 of this year, but the opening was cancelled due to pressure from Arab UNESCO delegates, who argued it would disturb Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. There remained “unresolved issues relating to potentially contestable textual and visual historical points, which might be perceived by Member States as endangering the peace process,” UNESCO said in a January 17 press release.
“This is such a betrayal. To do it in this way is so disgraceful,” Wistrich had responded, but the event was postponed and finally opened in Paris in June. After the postponement, the US State Department decided to become a cosponsor of the exhibition, joining Israel, Canada and Montenegro.
The exhibition consists of 24 panels of about 800 words each, detailing various aspects of the Jewish people’s connection to Israel throughout the generations, showing clearly that there was always a Jewish presence in the land of Israel.
The exhibition is to travel to various countries around the world and is due to open in the Vatican on Wednesday.