(Israel Hayom via JNS) Preserving the Eternal, an advocacy group that seeks to prevent the destruction of Jewish national heritage sites by Palestinians, has sounded the alarm over what appears to be a deliberate effort to destroy a key landmark in Samaria.
El-Unuk, one of the six “Gilgal” sites that were identified by the archaeologist Adam Zertal as dating to the Israelites’ entry into the land following Joshua’s conquest, is in Area B of Judea and Samaria, under Palestinian civilian control and Israeli security governance. It is in the vicinity of Nahal Tirzah, one of the streams that flows from eastern Samaria into the Jordan River, and from there to the Dead Sea.
The site is under immediate threat of destruction because of construction work being carried out by the Palestinian Authority, which has already paved a road at the complex, Preserving the Eternal told Israel Hayom.
A few weeks ago, serious damage was discovered caused by infrastructure and road construction that seems to have been carried out as preparation for a residential neighborhood or a commercial area. An inspector from Preserving the Eternal has identified a large residential building at the site. Shai Bar, a lecturer at the University of Haifa and director of an archaeological survey at the site, warned: “This is doing terrible damage at an important Iron Age site, which was revealed many years ago in a survey of Manasseh Hill.”
According to Bar, “Building on an ancient site without taking the necessary steps to preserve it is unbelievable incompetence, demonstrating a lack of governance by the authorities, who are supposed to ensure that this doesn’t happen in areas under its control. The authorities need to immediately halt the construction work and attempt to save the findings from the damaged site.”
The indiscriminate destruction of Jewish heritage sites in Judea and Samaria is a common and disturbing trend. In the best-case scenario, the P.A. takes control of sites and co-opts them as Palestinian. In the worst-case scenario— a common occurrence—Palestinians carry out massive and irreparable destruction.
Adi Shragai, activities director at Preserving the Eternal, said, “Building on an archaeological site means destruction, which can’t be restored or reconstructed, with the findings being lost forever. This site, one of the most important for the beginnings of the Jewish people, has only been surveyed and not yet excavated. The [Israeli Defense Ministry’s] Civilian Administration has refused to operate in Area B, claiming that it is under Palestinian civilian authority.
“This is a site with national and global significance, and Israel has a legal and moral obligation to protect it,” Shragai continued. “The government must immediately intervene and demand that the P.A. and the European countries supporting the project halt the construction immediately. The Oslo Accords don’t give the P.A. the authority to destroy world heritage sites.”
Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, said: “The PA’s goal is to wipe Jewish history from Samaria. It is barbarically destroying, crushing, breaking and eliminating another heritage site, and regretfully there is no significant response. This is a national abandonment.”