Illegal Palestinian quarry destroying Second Temple-era site

The ancient aqueduct running 40 km from Gush Etzion to Jerusalem is considered an engineering phenomenon.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A pirate Palestinian quarry is destroying a major arcaheological site dating back to the Second Temple era with no pushback from Israeli authorities, Israel Hayom reported Sunday.

Palestinians working in the Beit Fajjar quarry have caused “irreversible” damage to a 2,000-year-old aqueduct, said two men who examined the site a few months ago.

Azriel Yechezkel of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology and Yoav Negev of the Israel Cave Explorers Club said that about two kilometers of the water carrier have been completely destroyed.

The aqueduct runs some 40 km from Gush Etzion to Jerusalem in what is considered a sensation of ancient engineering; it ran along hilly terrain with almost no incline that could help the water flow naturally, using simple gravity.

It brought water to Solomon’s Pools adjacent to the Old City, which in turn fed the Second Temple complex.

The quarry was originally based in Palestinian-controlled Area B, but expanded over 15 years ago into Area C in the Gush Etzion area, where Israel has full security and civilian control.

It is the largest pirate quarry in the country and its work has never been stopped by Israeli authorities even though an explicit ruling to that effect was made over a decade ago, according to Regavim, an NGO that monitors illegal Palestinian construction activity and works to protect Israel’s national lands and resources.

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The most that was done in response to a Regavim appeal to the High Court of Justice in 2011, after four years of the illegal operation, was that the Civil Administration in charge of Judea and Samaria confiscated some generators, digging equipment and fuel. It then claimed that this “led to an almost complete cessation of quarrying in the non-licensed area.”

Based on official government commitments to uphold the rule of law, the High Court rejected Regavim’s petition. Then-chief justice Dorit Beinish did have a caveat, writing in the judgment that “we are assuming that the enforcement and regulatory actions taken by the respondents will continue, and that the policy that has been formulated will be enforced without interruption.”

The quarry only grew since that time, however, and the damage to the aqueduct was noted by the NGO as far back as 2013.

In general, Regavim charges that the quarry, which has dug up hundreds of acres of state land, is doing “irreparable damage” to the landscape and local ecosystem, including the destruction of wildlife habitats. Last year, the NGO filed another petition to shut down Beit Fajjar.

“The criminals who cause the damage simply carry on, rapaciously exploiting the natural resources of the Land of Israel as they scoff at the law and pocket vast profits, without any responsibility for the destruction they leave in their wake,” Regavim stated.