Arabs build on ancient Jewish site: ‘Another case of barbaric destruction’

In the most recent case, an Arab clan illegally turned an ancient cave in a declared archeological site into a home.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israel’s Civil Administration, responsible for governing Israeli areas in Judea and Samaria, is doing nothing to stop Arab destruction of antiquities and takeover of archeological sites in areas supposedly under full Israeli control, Channel 20 reported Sunday.

The report cited an ongoing incursion in Khirbet Parsin, an official site in northern Samaria near the village of Hermesh that dates back to Second Temple (Iron Age) times. Over the last several months, a Palestinian clan has illegally built houses, a water reservoir and even a road running through the supposedly protected area filled with burial caves, a Jewish ritual bath and complex underground systems.

It has also turned buildings from the Ottoman period on the site into homes, and most recently it used heavy equipment to destroy the contents of an ancient cave and turn it into a residence as well.

“This is another case of barbaric destruction of a significant ancient historical site for the Jewish people and for humanity in general, this time in Area C, under full Israeli control,” said Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan.

“I call on law enforcement to address this issue immediately… It is impossible that the State of Israel should continue to close its eyes in the face of blatant damage to its historic sites,” he said.

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The Council, along with Regavim, an NGO dedicated to the protection of Israel’s national lands and resources, appealed to the Civil Administration several months ago to end the takeover. However, it only issued a “Stop Destruction” order which it never followed up on. The most inspectors did at one point was confiscate some construction equipment and take away some newly planted trees. Consequently, the Arabs never left.

Regavim director of operations Yachin Zik was scathing in his criticism of the Civil Administration.

“This is an ongoing case of helplessness and lack of enforcement,” he said. “The history of invasion of other archeological sites proves that if the invaders are not removed from the area completely and immediately, isolated enforcement actions have no meaning.”

The only way to deter such actions in the future, added Eitan Melet, the movement’s field coordinator for the region, is for the squatters to be removed and “prosecuted to the full extent of the law in order to convey a message to other criminals.”

Melet had the unpleasant experience last May of being stopped by a Palestinian Authority (PA) checkpoint set up near the same site, even though PA police have no rights in the area. He had gone to investigate and document the damage that had already been done to its ancient remains by Palestinian criminals during a period when 70% of the Civil Administration’s Archeological Inspection Unit had been furloughed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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“The city of Parash [Parsin] has never been excavated by archaeologists – but it has been thoroughly and aggressively excavated by local Arab looters and grave-robbers, because the State of Israel does not take responsibility,” Melet said at the time.

“To me, this is the flip side of the coin of Palestinian Police operating, fully armed, in areas that are clearly and unarguably under Israeli jurisdiction. We urge the Israeli government to formulate a plan of action that will protect our heritage sites,” he said.

In yet another clash with the Civil Administration, Regavim last week petitioned the Jerusalem District Court to force the administration to provide data on how much electricity the Israel Electric Company is providing to thousands of illegal Palestinian structures in Judea and Samaria, through its East Jerusalem Electric Company subsidiary.

NGO wants to know how the electric company received permission to abet criminal activity, and whether there are any master plans and oversight – questions that the administration has stalled over answering.

“Aside from the safety hazards posed by unauthorized, unsupervised electrical connections, this situation lends permanence to the illegal structures,” said Regavim’s Zik. “It is inconceivable that a company subject to Israeli law should provide unauthorized electrical connections to structures built illegally.”