Armed Palestinian Authority police on Monday arrested two Israeli archaeologists at an archaeological site in northern Samaria, in an area which is under Israeli control.
The group Shomrim Al Hanetzach (lit. guarding eternity), dedicated to preserving antiquities sites in Judea and Samaria, has been carrying out a mapping project of ancient sites which have fallen victim to rogue excavations, looting and damage to the finds. The venture was launched following the announcement of the Trump plan early this year, and has surveyed more than 100 antiquities sites which have been severely damaged – a phenomenon that has been further aggravated by the coronavirus which caused a cut in the Civil Administration’s inspections of crimes against Israel’s historical treasures.
Shomrim Al hanetzach coordinator Ethan Melet went out on Monday morning with two archaeologists to the Tel Parsin site in northern Samaria, in an area under which should be under full Israeli control under the Oslo Accords, to inspect the damage to the site.
Tel Parsin is a 5-minute drive from the village of Hermesh in northern Samaria, and its name alludes to a descendant of Menashe: “Machir’s wife Maachah gave birth to a son and named him Peresh,” (I Chronicles 7:16); and the Talmudic settlement Kfar Parshai: “The Sages taught: At first, the Sages would say that wine from the Samaritan city of Ein Kushi is prohibited, due to the concern that it might have come into contact with the idolatrous inhabitants of Birat Serika, and similarly the wine of Barkata is prohibited due to the idolatrous inhabitants of the village of Parshai, and the wine of Zagdor is prohibited due to the village of Shaleim. Subsequently, they retracted and began saying: Open barrels are prohibited but sealed barrels are permitted.” (Avoda Zara 31a).
The site contains the remains of a large settlement that existed almost continuously from the Iron Age to the Ottoman period.
Among the noteworthy remains is a mikvah that was excavated during the Second Temple period and was used until the Byzantine period, burial caves, an oil mill cave, underground systems and impressive structures from the Ottoman period.
The small team of archaeologists encountered a checkpoint of the PA police, in an area under full Israeli control, where these police officers are prohibited from entering, certainly not carry arms and set up road blocks.
“The Palestinian police officers demanded that he get off the vehicles, and we refused,” Melet reported. “These were unpleasant moments, but even more so – outrageous. After contacting the IDF, and with the mediation of Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Council, they decided to hand us over to the IDF at the nearby Dotan checkpoint.”
“The city of Peresh has never been excavated by archaeologists but is being excavated by local Arab robbers, aggressively so, because the State of Israel does not take responsibility,” Melet said. “To me, this is the inevitable outcome of the fact that armed PA police are walking around in distinctly Israeli areas. We urge the Israeli government to adopt a plan to protect our heritage sites.”