Photo Credit: Shomrim Al Hanetzach / Israel Hayom
The destroyed 2nd Temple Aquaduct

The “Shomrin Al Hanetzach” organization issued an urgent call to the government to act rapidly to save a 2,000-year-old aqueduct that is being ground by Arabs into pebbles for construction.

Shomrim Al Hanetzach (Preserving Eternity), a watchdog group dedicated to protecting Israel’s archaeological treasures, has discovered that Arabs operating an illegal factory in Beit Fajar in Gush Etzion took about two kilometers from a Second Temple period aqueduct and ground it into gravel for construction, the Israeli Hayon daily reported.

The illegal quarry near Beit Fajar
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The aqueduct led water from the area to Solomon’s Pools, situated just south of Bethlehem, and from there to ancient Jerusalem.

Shomrim Al Hanetzach called on the Israeli government to “act immediately and resolutely to stop the damage to the ancient waterworks, an engineering marvel that was preserved and operated for about 2,000 years until it was destroyed by criminals.”

“An emergency survey of the remaining remnants should begin immediately and the activity of the criminal quarries should be stopped. In addition, what can be restored should be restored, and action to document, digitize and record the remains of the aqueduct for the benefit of history and human heritage throughout the world should be taken,” Adi Shragai, the organization’s spokesperson, told TPS on Sunday.

Antiquities in Judea and Samaria face a constant danger of destruction. Grave robbers and antiquities thieves from the Palestinian Authority (PA) carry out illegal digs and excavations. The phenomenon of antiquity destruction is pervasive and affects all sites that are not under preservation, and a survey of the sites in Judea and Samaria shows that a staggering 95% of the archeological sites have been robbed, vandalized or disturbed.

Findings presented to the Knesset last week show that 90% of the sites that are destroyed are being destroyed by the PA for development purposes, and 10% are destroyed for robbery purposes.

Most recently, unknown individuals from the PA have again caused damage to the Biblical-era site of Yehoshua ben Nun’s Altar on Mount Ebal.

In November 2020, the PA inaugurated a “Palestinian” tourist complex in the town of Sebastia in Samaria, the historic capital of the biblical Kingdom of Israel.

Moshe Guttman, chairman of Shomrim Al Hanetzach, warned the Knesset’s Education Committee that “our history is being erased. We think the State of Israel is sleeping while standing up and no one is doing anything about it.”

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