Photo Credit: Elad Tzur
Joshua's altar on Mount Eival.

Unknown individuals from the Palestinian Authority have once again caused damage to the Biblical-era site of Joshua’s Altar on Mount Eival.

The Book of Joshua describes how the Israelite General Joshua Bin-Nun built an altar on Mount Eival, acting on instructions from Moses after the nation had crossed into the Land of Israel: And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day (Joshua 4:9).

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Haifa University archaeologist Adam Zertal has identified the remains of an altar found at the site as the one described in the Bible, where Joshua divided the land among the 12 tribes.

Zertal’s research showed the area to be a unique ritual site used to offer sacrifices. The dating of the altar to the period of the Israelites’ entry into the land, the similarity between the structure excavated and the altar described in the Torah, and the fact that only kosher animal bones were found at the site led the researchers to conclude that this is the altar Joshua Bin-Nun built on Mount Ebal.

The latest damage was discovered by volunteers of Shomrim Al Hanetzach (Preserving Eternity), a project dedicated to the preservation of the archaeological treasures throughout Judea and Samaria. They reported damage to the altar’s walls and the felling of stones on its eastern side. Further damage was found in the surrounding part of the altar, in its southwest corner, as well as the collapse of the upper part of the wall. More damage yet was found in the northeast corner of the altar where the collapse of the corner of the altar and the foot of the structure was observed.

The organization notified the head of the Samaria Council, Yossi Dagan. Minister of Culture and Sports Hilli Tropper recently visited the site together with Dagan and said that that his office was increasing the fight against the theft of antiquities and damage to archeological sites in Judea and Samaria.

Adi Shragai from Shomrim Al Hanetzach called on the Israeli government to “act as quickly as possible to prevent damage to the altar, which is in a grave and immediate danger.”

“This is one of the most important sites for the Jewish people and hundreds of millions of Bible believers in the world,” Shragai pointed out. “The writing is on the wall and we have warned about the high risk posed to the site, but no government official has so far taken responsibility.”

She reminded Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of his statement that “the treatment of the altar is like that of the Western Wall” and said, “it’s time to fulfill that promise.”

The PA has paved a road that passes near the site of the altar, connecting the village of Asira ash-Shamaliya with Shechem. Part of the ancient fence that borders the site was dismantled and its stones were crushed using a gravel crusher to serve as a substrate for the road. The site’s location in Area B, under PA control, enables the PA to operate there unhindered.

According to PA officials, identifying the site as a Jewish altar is a “falsification of the Palestinian history of the place” which constitutes a false use of archaeology by Israel to take over the area. The PA justifies its damage to the precious sit as its effort to prevent “fake historic accounts.”

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.
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