The Palestinian Authority is nearly finished destroying the archaeological remains of a Hasmonean fortress in Tel Aroma in Samaria which it seized in February 2020. The PA announced the site is being converted into a “Palestinian National Archaeological Park.”
The site contains a Hasmonean-era fortress and large ancient water reservoirs. In February 2020, the PA seized the location, using heavy machinery to destroy ancient walls and pave an access road. A decorated wall from the Herodian period was dismantled and disappeared while nearby, a mosque was built.
Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, stated Wednesday that “in recent years, we have witnessed a new type of terrorism whose goal is to harm Jewish history in Samaria. The Palestinian Authority is working to destroy any historical evidence that Samaria, along with the entire Land of Israel, belongs to the people of Israel.”
Dagan called on the government to “act as soon as possible and protect these important places. Just as no other country in the world would allow the history of its people to be damaged, we too must not allow vandals from the Palestinian Authority to damage our history. Tel Aroma is the heritage of the people of Israel and an important part of the history of the Jewish people and we must not stand by when the place is systematically destroyed.”
In a tragically ironic act, last year on Tu B’Shvat, while Israel was celebrating the new year of trees, the PA held a tree-planting ceremony on the entire top of the mountain. At the ceremony, the PA dedicated the mosque to the memory of the “martyrs” of the village of Beita, a hotbed of terrorists and Palestinian violence.
This type of destruction is becoming more common, frequently under the auspices of or aided by the UN and European governments. Repeated damage and vandalism is being carried out at the archaeological remains of Joshua’s altar on Mount Ebal with parts of the ancient walls being ground up for gravel to be used in a paved road. According to PA officials, identifying the site as an Israeli altar is a “falsification of the Palestinian history of the place” which they are acting to prevent.
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. A flagpole with the PLO flag was affixed to the ancient stones, under the auspices of UNESCO and the Belgian government, without any archeological and scientific supervision.
In January, Shomrim Al Hanetzach 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.
Last month, the PA commandeered the Sheikh Sha’ala site, another archeological site in Samaria, and converted it into a “Palestinian Heritage Site,” hoisting a huge PA flag over the archaeological dig. Farmers prepared agricultural plots and a summer house was built, without regard to the archeological findings irreversibly damaged. The PA has announced it has further plans for development at the site.
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 in January 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.