Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Matson Collection / Public Domain
Byzantine baptismal font at Tuku, anno 1940.

The IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) on Monday morning retrieved a rare Byzantine-era baptismal font from the Arab town of Teqoa (Tuqu’), southeast of Bethlehem.

The stone font dates to the fifth century CE and was part of a local Byzantine-era church.


The font was stolen by Arab dealers in 2000. In 2002, the local Palestinian Authority (PA) municipality placed it in the vicinity of the mayor’s house, allegedly pending the construction of a museum.

The 1,500-year-old vessel is one of three rare baptismal fonts hewn from rosy rock. The two others include the one recently discovered at the Church of the Nativity and another at the Beit Govrin.

However, PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi alleged Monday night that “Israel’s theft of a baptismal font is an abominable act of thuggery and cultural appropriation.”

“A hallmark of Israel’s system of colonial occupation and oppression has been its disdainful attempts to erase Palestinian presence, culture and heritage, including the illegal appropriation and theft of heritage sites and artifacts. This systemic policy of plunder is a war crime that must not go unpunished,” she added.

The Palestinian leadership has often claimed that they are somehow connected to Christians and that Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, was in fact a “Palestinian” and a “Shahid,” or Islamic Martyr.

For instance, Tawfiq Tirawi, senior Palestinian leader and Fatah Central Committee member posted on his Facebook page in December 2019: “This is blessed Christmas, The birthday of our lord Jesus the Messiah, the first Palestinian and the first Shahid.”

Laila Ghannam, District Governor of Ramallah, wrote in the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on Christmas eve of 2019 that “the entire Palestinian people celebrates Christmas because we are proud of Jesus being Palestinian.”

The Palestinian Media Watch, explaining this phenomenon, said that the PA “rewrites history, both ancient and recent, according to its political and internal needs.”

“As a people without a history who are attempting to create a national identity, teaching Palestinians that Jesus was a Palestinian is an attempt to trick primarily their own people into believing that they have not only an ancient history but a glorious national identity,” PMW said.

Tekoa has a rich Jewish history, it was the birthplace of the prophet Amos, and is mentioned a number of times in the Bible.


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