Photo Credit: courtesy, Yaron Rosenthal
Ancient burial mound from the Age of the Patriarchs

Although the deadline for demolition of the Elazar neighborhood of Netiv Ha’Avot has not yet arrived, destruction in the area by Israeli security forces had already begun by the time Kfar Etzion Field School director Yaron Rosenthal reached the site on Wednesday morning.

Heavy IDF equipment waiting to destroy Netiv Ha’Avot

Israeli security forces who brought heavy machinery to the Gush Etzion site of Netiv Ha’Avot this week had already damaged ancient graves and artifacts dating as far back as the Middle Bronze Age.

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The forces were ordered by the Supreme Court in December 2016 to demolish the entire neighborhood of Netiv Ha’Avot. This, despite the fact that just a few of the homes were found to be sitting on a narrow strip of land – as little as 40 centimeters wide – that is privately owned by citizens of the Palestinian Authority.

Ancient burial mound from the Age of the Patriarchs

Earlier this week in compliance with the order, IDF soldiers began bringing bulldozers and other heavy equipment up to the site.

But Rosenthal told JewishPress.com on Wednesday that 4,000-year-old graves are being destroyed, along with other ancient finds dating back to the Age of the Patriarchs, including an aqueduct system.

“No one carried out an archaeological survey before the excavations,” Rosenthal said. “Graves that have stood the test of time for 4,000 years are now about to be destroyed.”

Ancient burial mounds similar to those found on the Temple Mount – identified as rojum – may also have been destroyed at the site, Rosenthal warned.

The Prime Minister’s Office, the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Education had all agreed that work would not begin yet, and the vehicles were parked along the side of old Highway 60, according to activists maintaining a vigil at the site. But the damage was already done.

Rosenthal contends that Wednesday morning’s destruction and the planned demolition of homes over a few centimeters of private land was caused by the same source: “the military rule we have here in Judea and Samaria that destroys homes for nothing, that destroys archaeological sites without knowing anything about them.”

Rosenthal has asked the Archaeology Officer of the Israel Antiquities Authority responsible for the territories in Judea and Samaria to call a halt to the demolitions until a formal survey is carried out to preserve the remaining archaeological finds.

Meanwhile, activists are continuing to organize and do whatever they can to build grassroots support to fight what many say is the “inevitable” destruction of their homes.

JewishPress.com will update with the response from the Civil Administration once it is received.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.