For several years, surreptitious actions by the Palestinian Authority (PA) have been slowly destroying the archaeological site of Joshua’s altar described in the Bible. Despite assurances by the Israeli government that they would work to prevent the destruction, construction has begun on an entire neighborhood on Mount Ebal in Northern Samaria.
Channel 12 reported that on Sunday, an inspector from the Samaria Regional Council’s Lands Department discovered that Palestinians began paving roads as part of a project for 32 housing units on top of the archaeological site. After the report, the Civil Administration confiscated the construction vehicle. It was also reported that the archaeologist in charge of antiquities affairs in Judea and Samaria had opened an investigation.
The site is in Samaria and is categorized by the Oslo Accords as Area B, which falls under PA administrative control and joint PA-Israeli security control.
The destruction comes despite Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant saying in January that Israel would not allow Palestinians to damage the archaeological site. Gallant claimed to have ordered the IDF to carry out frequent patrols in the area and to prevent any activity that could damage the site.
MK Dan Illouz (Likud) responded strongly to the incident calling for immediate action by the government:
“The Arabs of Judea and Samaria continue their efforts to erase Jewish history, to destroy archeological sites, to deny our roots in our country with actions that remind us of the actions of ISIS. The destruction of antiquities must not be allowed. This is an irreversible process. Reversible and crying for generations!”
“Following the start of the development works of about 30 housing units on the Yehoshua Altar plot by the former mayor of Nablus and the Hamas terrorist who was in the Israeli prison Adli Yaish, MK Dan Iloz sent a letter to the chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, MK Yuli Edelstein, with a call for compliance Urgent discussion on the subject.”
“The Joshua Altar site is an archeological site of tremendous significance, proving the truth of the Bible story and the Exodus from Egypt and the deep roots of the people of Israel to the Land of Israel in general and Samaria in particular.”
Regavim, which monitors illegal construction in Judea and Samaria,
“The enormity of Jewish history that lies on and below the surface of the land cannot be obscured, and we must not allow the PA to continue to rewrite, demolish and erase the ancient Jewish history of this land – not on Mount Ebal and not in dozens of other threatened archaeological sites.”
“It’s the same story in Jericho, Sebastian, Solomon’s Pools, and Joshua’s Altar. Oslo’s insanity was a foreseeable disaster. Leaving Jewish heritage sites in the hands of the very people who want to erase the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel as a whole and Judea-Samaria in particular. The question is why UNESCO is complicit, and why the Israeli government doesn’t step up and protect world cultural heritage sites when they are being decimated by the Palestinian Authority in a systematic fashion.”
Aaron Lipkin, the Israeli owner of a travel agency that specializes in tours of the biblical heartland for Evangelicals, organized an online petition calling on the Israeli government to take immediate and decisive action in the form of:
1- Establishing a permanent physical presence 24/7 to protect the site.
2- Declare this site as a holy site for Jews and Christians.
3- Take all necessary steps to correct the damage that was done to the area this week.
4- Take full archaeological responsibility for the site.
The Palestinian Authority has been attempting to destroy the site for several years. They also maintain that claims that the site was a Jewish altar described in the Bible is a fabrication intended to erase “Palestinian history.
In December 2020, MK Michal Shir (Likud) submitted an urgent petition concerning the destruction of the archaeological site, but Deputy Defense Minister Michael Biton (Blue&White) replied that the works were approved by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), adding that there was no danger to the site.
Just two months later, Arab construction crews were using heavy equipment to destroy portions of a 3,200-year-old wall adjacent to the site. Shomrim al Hanetzach reported that Palestinian workers had ground ancient stones from the site’s exterior wall into gravel in order to pave the road, and made use of stones from within the site itself.
A group of Israelis entered the Palestinian-controlled area in a clandestine mission that succeeded in restoring some of the damage.
Earlier this year, the Fight for Every Dunam forum released a report titled “Mount Ebal: a Wake-Up Call,” outlining the plans of the PA to build a neighborhood on top of the archaeological site containing the Biblical altar of Joshua. Activists for Fight for Every Dunam acquired construction plans for dozens of lots from the PA’s Local Government Ministry in which aerial photographs clearly show the plans will obliterate the archaeological site.
“According to the plans, most of the area of the site is going to be razed to gravel, and whatever is left will also be destroyed in short order and be completely out of Israeli control once the Arab neighborhood swallows it up,” the organization warned.
The site was discovered in 1980 by Professor Adam Zertal from the University of Haifa. He was able to date the site to the end of the 13th century BCE and found it to be an unusual ritual site whose dimensions correspond directly with the biblical altar described in the book of Joshua after the victory over Ai.
At that time, Yehoshua built a mizbeach to Hashem, the God of Yisrael, on Har Eival, Joshua 8:30
According to PA officials, the claim that the site is a Jewish altar is a fabrication of “Palestinian history” – a phenomenon all major historians reject.
Zertal’s conclusion is frequently challenged by archaeologists who claim the Bible is not a historically accurate account of events. Zertal was himself anti-religious and also denied the Biblical connection of his find for several years.
Read the remarkable story of the site of Joshua’s Altar here.