JERUSALEM, Israel -- A United Nations organization has released a statement declaring two biblical sites in Israel to be mosques.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Rachel's Tomb near Bethlehem and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron were an "integral" part of what it called "occupied Palestine."
"UNESCO is not scientific society. There's a vote of countries to decide designations of different places," former Israeli U.N. ambassador Dore Gold said.
The declaration comes despite historic evidence that Biblical forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs along with their wives.
The site of Rachel's Tomb is believed to be the burial place of the biblical matriarch Rachel, the favored wife of Jacob. Approximately 750,000 mostly Jewish and Christian pilgrims visit and pray at the tomb every year.
Still, Islamic authorities have insisted Jews have no history in either place.
"He read a verse from the Koran saying that Abraham he never been a Jew. He was a Muslim, pure Muslim according to the Koran," one Muslim man said.
"The great irony - particularly about Rachel's Tomb - is that in Islamic tradition, it was never called the Bilal ibn Ribah mosque. This is a whole new invention of the Palestinian Authority from 1996," Gold said.
Gold told CBN News about historic documents proving Muslims once recognized the tomb as Jewish.
"We have an imperial decree from the Ottoman Empire from 1830, which says Rachel's Tomb is a Jewish Site," he said.
Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu personally told U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon of Israel's 4,000-year connection to the holy sites and noted more than a billion people believe the historic documentation in the Bible.
But a spokesman for Ban said the mosque designation was crucial to reviving Israeli - Palestinian peace talks.
Gold noted that Jews have traveled to these sites from around the world for generations.
"To suddenly try to eradicate that history and to turn Jewish religious sites into Moslem religious sites clearly serves a political agenda, but it is not historical truth," Gold said.
The international uproar began in February, when the Israeli government first included the two places in an official list of its national heritage sites.
"Israelis are talking in the halls of power about the effort of some countries to delegitimize the state of Israel," Gold said. "That means charging it with phony war crimes. That means questioning its history, its very foundations.