Israel must protect its heritage

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Feb 19, 2021, 12:59:16 AMFeb 19
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Israel must protect its heritage

18 February 2021

The biblical site of Prophet Joshua's altar on Mount Ebal, near Nablus, has been preserved in peace since the 13th century. Yet, in the last few weeks, the Palestinian Authority began destroying the sacred Jewish site by grinding up ancient stones from its exterior wall to use as gravel to pave a road nearby, causing irreversible damage.

The right-wing Shomrim al Hanetzach NGO stepped in to keep a record of these sites when the government failed to do so and reported disturbing statistics. Some 80% of ancient Jewish heritage sites in Judea and Samaria have been damaged by the PA, 40% sustained irreversible damage.

The nerve to cause such destruction stems from the infamous 1993 Oslo Accords, when not only did we sacrifice the lives of our loved ones, but our ancient sites as well.

We chose to turn a blind eye and trust the Palestinian Authority, a government that pays stipends to terrorists, to protect the sites that stand witness to our connection to this land. Blindness prevented us from realizing that a battle is being waged not only over territory but the narrative as well.

The PA is also looking to gain control of the historical narrative. After all, the fact that we are the natives of this land carries tremendous historical and legal significance.

The Palestinian Authority seems to understand this. Do our leaders get it?

They bury their heads in the sand, mumbling that it will all be alright, that they are busy with things of greater significance.

Besides Joshua's Altar, the Palestinian Authority also caused damage to the Hasmonean fortress in Samaria and even hoisted up a flag of the Palestine Liberation Organization on the site. The PA also announced that it wants to establish a mosque there and expand the site altogether.

All these sacred sites are located in Area B of the West Bank, which is under Palestinian civilian control. The attorney general hits the breaks on any effort to try and salvage the damage, and the political echelon seems to have forgotten that it has more power than the attorney general.

It seems that after the destruction of the Mount Ebal site, perception is finally shifting. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the PA, so did President Reuven Rivlin and other ministers and Knesset members.

Dozens of archeologists across the entire political spectrum have signed a letter addressed to Defense Minister Benny Gantz stating that the site itself had sustained irreversible damage, and not just the exterior wall, after he denied MK Zvi Hauser's request to visit the location to assess the damage, claiming "no damage has been done to the site itself."

Will we turn a blind eye yet again? The prime minister ordered an assessment, the president expressed outrage on Twitter, the defense minister continues to trust the Palestinian Authority, and the site remains unprotected.

Instead of coming up with a long-term solution, they confuse us with their statements.

No more. This time we demand a comprehensive solution, supervision over the attorney general, and protection of these sacred locations. Then we might be able to preserve what is left of them.

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