Human remains from an ancient burial tomb near Jericho’s Hasmonean Palace were found scattered and desecrated – the work of local Arab grave robbers. On Tuesday, the remains were given a Jewish re-burial in the Kfar Adumim cemetery.
By World Israel News Staff
Hundreds participated on Tuesday in an unusual funeral at the Kfar Adumim cemetery: A final resting place was arranged for human remains that had been desecrated and scattered near the looted burial tombs of the Hasmonean Palace in Jericho.
The Second Temple-era burial caves on the outskirts of Jericho, which until recently had been the resting place for Jewish residents of the palace, were looted by Arab grave-robbers.
Several days before Passover, “Preserving the Eternal” volunteers hiking near the Hasmonean Palace near Jericho discovered that a Jewish burial cave from the Second Temple era had been exposed by heavy machinery – used by local Arabs to level the ground for illegal agricultural use.
The cave’s burial niches were severely damaged, and countless human skulls, skeletons, and scattered bones were strewn over the freshly-turned earth. They were told by the local farmers that the sarcophagi (ancient caskets) from which the bones were removed had recently “disappeared.”
The area, which was surveyed several years ago by renowned archaeologist Professor Rachel Hachklili of Haifa University, is the largest Second Temple-era burial ground in Israel.
The compound is comprised of hundreds of graves in a system made up of dozens of burial caves, with unique inscriptions that provide biographical details about the people buried there.
An official complaint about the ransacked graves was submitted by Regavim to the Civil Administration, which eventually sent a team from its Archaeology Unit to collect the scattered, desecrated remains, which were reinterred Tuesday.
The burial ceremony, attended by hundreds of residents of the surrounding Jewish communities, rabbinic leaders, senior Civil Administration officials, and other public figures, was made possible with the help of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Binyamin Regional Council which set aside a special area in the Kfar Adumim cemetery as the final resting place for the ancient remains.
Yisrael Gantz, Head of the Binyamin Regional Council, gave an impassioned but unusual eulogy:
“We are here because greedy, callous thieves, who have no respect for human dignity, laid their hands on the remains of our ancestors. We stand here today, ashamed, as we are forced to say to them: ‘We have failed you. We failed to protect you as we should have.’
“Nonetheless, we, your children’s children, are here today to pay our last respects, and to bring you to your final resting place among the newly-reborn Jewish community of the Binyamin region, in the heart of our homeland. We are certain that you take pride in this fitting burial place. Alongside our sadness, we are proud that you will dwell among us for eternity, and in the coming days we will erect a proper memorial stone on this fresh grave.”
PA trampling our heritage
“This is an act of true hesed [charity], not only towards the remains of our ancestors, but to our heritage and our history, which are being brutally trampled by the Palestinian Authority – in Jericho and in thousands of other archaeological sites throughout Judea and Samaria, the Land of the Bible and the cradle of Jewish culture,” added Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim.
“We applaud the Civil Administration for its quick response to our complaint, and for the professional and efficient actions it took to treat the memory of our ancestors with the proper respect. The State of Israel must not accept this barbarity. The government must address this phenomenon and create a comprehensive solution.”
Moshe Gutman of the “Preserving the Eternal” Project, adds: “The Civil Administration was resolute in its enforcement activities and in collecting the scattered bones, and gave the remains of our ancestors who had been buried in the royal family’s burial grounds the respect they deserve.
“We applaud the close cooperation between the Civil Administration and the Ministry of Religious Affairs, but remind the Israeli government of its responsibility for preserving the historical record of the Jewish People and the Land of Israel, and for the protection of the treasures of our national heritage.
“We expect more than a fitting response; we expect the government to take the initiative, to create a national emergency plan and begin its implementation immediately, so that tragedies such as this one are not repeated,” he said.