Palestine Applauds Decision to Inscribe 'Tell es-Sultan' on World Heritage List

The “Tell es-Sultan/Old Jericho” site. (shutterstock)
The “Tell es-Sultan/Old Jericho” site. (shutterstock)
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Palestine Applauds Decision to Inscribe 'Tell es-Sultan' on World Heritage List

The “Tell es-Sultan/Old Jericho” site. (shutterstock)
The “Tell es-Sultan/Old Jericho” site. (shutterstock)

Palestinians applauded the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee’s decision to inscribe the pre-historic site of “Tell es-Sultan/Old Jericho” on the World Heritage List.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said the decision to inscribe Tell es-Sultan is “a matter of great importance and evidence of the authenticity and history of the Palestinian people,” assuring that the Palestinian authorities would “continue to preserve this unique site for all humanity.”

Abbas, on behalf of the Palestinian state and people, thanked Saudi Arabia led by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, king Salman bin Abdulaziz, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for hosting the committee, as well as the committee members, the UNESCO’s executive board, and all the member states that made the enlisting happen.

The UNESCO took the decision to inscribe “Tell es-Sultan/formerly Jericho” as a World Heritage at its 45th world heritage committee meeting held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Rula Maayah stated that Palestine has now five sites on the UNESCOS’s World Heritage list including “Tell es-Sultan”: Jerusalem (the old city and its walls), Bethlehem (the birthplace of Jesus including the Church of the Nativity and the pilgrimage route), the old town of Hebron, and the “cultural landscape” of the village of Battir south of Jerusalem.

The minister said the significance of this decision stems from acknowledging that the site is an authentic part of the diverse Palestinian heritage, and enjoys an exceptional human value as the oldest fortified city in the world.

“Tell es-Sultan represents the first successful example of permanent human settlements, and the oldest agricultural town in the world that was built in the modern Stone Age, 10,000 years ago, in the lowest spot on Earth (250 meters below sea level), near the Ein Sultan spring. It encouraged humans to move to a stable life that relied on the domestication of plants and animals, construction, pottery making, and developed social, economic, and religious systems, she noted.

The site is one of the most important archaeological sites in Palestine, it was the cornerstone of Jericho, and the beginning of human life during the Natufian period before the emergence of plants, about 10,500 years ago.

“Tell es-Sultan” is located in the lower part of the Jordan Valley, 10 kilometers north of the Dead Sea, two kilometers north of Jericho’s center, and 250 meters below sea level, making old Jericho the lowest and oldest city in the world.

It features 29 layers of ancient civilizations and prominent constructions, including the circular building known as “The Jericho Tower”, a unique architectural design boasting an internal stone staircase and a three-meter-wide corridor. The city is surrounded by a wall and a three-meter-deep trench.

Palestinians in Jericho celebrated the decision with sports events, cavalry marches, musical performances, and a laser show at “Tell es-Sultan”.

“It’s a historic day and a political and cultural triumph for the Palestinians that comes after a campaign of falsifications led by the Israeli government to hinder the site’s addition to the World Heritage List,” said Mayor of Jericho, Abdul Karim Sedir.

Minister of Agriculture Riad Attari said this historical moment highlights the victory of the Palestinian right.



What is China's Panda Diplomacy and How Does it Work?

Wang Wang the panda is seen during China's Premier Li Qiang's visit to the Adelaide Zoo in Adelaide on June 16, 2024. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake / POOL / AFP)
Wang Wang the panda is seen during China's Premier Li Qiang's visit to the Adelaide Zoo in Adelaide on June 16, 2024. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake / POOL / AFP)
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What is China's Panda Diplomacy and How Does it Work?

Wang Wang the panda is seen during China's Premier Li Qiang's visit to the Adelaide Zoo in Adelaide on June 16, 2024. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake / POOL / AFP)
Wang Wang the panda is seen during China's Premier Li Qiang's visit to the Adelaide Zoo in Adelaide on June 16, 2024. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake / POOL / AFP)

During a visit to Australia this week, Chinese Premier Li Qiang made a classic goodwill gesture that boded well for relations between the two countries: he offered to send pandas.
The offer comes as ties between Australia and its largest trading partner improve after a diplomatic dispute that led to China imposing a raft of restrictions on Australian agricultural and mineral exports in 2020.
Native to China, pandas have through the years become "envoys of friendship", earning China's outreach to countries it gifts the animals to the name of panda diplomacy, Reuters said.
They have also been used to show Chinese anger.
So what is panda diplomacy and how does it work?
WHEN DID PANDA DIPLOMACY START?
Since its founding in 1949, the People's Republic of China has used panda diplomacy to boost its international image, either by gifting or lending panda to foreign zoos as goodwill animal ambassadors.
Former Chinese leader Mao Zedong in 1957 gifted a panda, Ping Ping, to the former Soviet Union to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the October Revolution that ushered in the Soviet regime.
To further cement ties with its socialist allies, China dispatched another panda to the Soviet Union in 1959 and five more to North Korea between 1965 and 1980.
In 1972, Beijing gifted two pandas, Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing, to the United States after then President Richard Nixon's historic visit, in a sign of normalized China-US relations and marking a pivotal moment for China's foreign policy.
Since then, other countries including Japan, France, Britain and Spain have also been given panda.
WHAT'S THE PANDA DIPLOMACY POLICY?
Since 1984, China stopped gifting pandas due to their dwindling numbers and began loaning them to overseas zoos instead, often in pairs for 10 years, with an annual fee of up to about $1 million.
While keeping pandas can be costly for zoos, they are seen as drawcards for visitors and help generate income.
The pandas typically return home to southwest China after the loan agreement ends. Panda cubs born overseas are no exception, and would be sent home between the age of two and four to join a Chinese breeding program.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
China has a history of using pandas to reward its trading partners. A 2013 Oxford University study said the timing of China's lease of pandas to Canada, France and Australia "coincided with" uranium deals and contracts with these countries.
The panda agreements with other countries, including Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, also coincided with the signing of free-trade agreements.
Sometimes, pandas are also used to express China's displeasure with a nation.
In 2010, China recalled two US-born pandas, Tai Shan and Mei Lan, after Beijing warned Washington against a scheduled meeting between then-President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama, which Beijing views as a dangerous separatist.
In a recent downturn in bilateral ties, Ya Ya, on loan to the US for 20 years, was returned in April 2023.
Concerns over her health had also fanned nationalist sentiment on China's social media, with animal advocates accusing the Memphis Zoo in Tennessee of providing inadequate care to the animal.
In November last year, three other pandas left, leaving only four giant pandas on US soil.
That month, Chinese President Xi Jinping then hinted that he was open to sending more pandas to the US after meeting with President Joe Biden in California, a gesture seen as Chinese willingness to improve ties.
ARE PANDAS STILL ENDANGERED?
China's domestic conservation programs have seen the status of pandas improve from endangered to vulnerable.
The population of giant pandas in the wild has grown from around 1,100 in the 1980s to 1,900 in 2023.
There are currently 728 pandas in zoos and breeding centers around the world.