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'Crime against humanity' - Palestinians turn remains of Second Temple-era Jewish town into dust

This type of vandalism has been on the rise since October 7

Aerial view of the Umm ar-Rihan archaeological site after the destruction (Photo: Shomrim Netzach)

Palestinians have flattened the Second Temple period archaeological site of Umm ar-Rihan in Samaria, replacing it with a parking lot.

The vandalism was only discovered last week, when ground surveyors from the Shomron Regional Council arrived at the site after what must have been a significant period of time. To their horror, they discovered that the site no longer existed and had been turned into a parking lot. Nothing was left of the archaeological structures.

Israel’s Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria, internationally known as the West Bank, identified the perpetrators and subsequently arrested them. Charges are expected to be filed in the coming days.

Israeli Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu said that this sort of vandalism has been on the rise since October.

“Since the outbreak of the war, we have been experiencing increasing attempts to demolish heritage sites throughout Judea and Samaria, and it is our duty, even while we are fighting for our home, to continue fighting for our history,” Eliyahu said.

“This is our hope for our land. When learning of the destruction, the Archaeology Officer’s Unit conducted an undercover investigation in order to identify those responsible for the damage, raided the home of the main suspect and arrested him. In the coming days, an indictment will be filed against him,” he added.

Aerial view of the Umm ar-Rihan archaeological site before the destruction (Photo: Shomrim Netzach)

The head of the Shomron Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, described the destruction as a crime against humanity.

“We can’t allow the war to turn into an excuse to destroy Jewish heritage sites in the West Bank. An attempt to deliberately erase Jewish history was made here. This is a crime not only against Jewish history and people but against all of humanity,” he said.

Dagan also said that Israel’s enemies are exploiting its current vulnerability.

“The remains of a Jewish settlement that stood undisturbed for 2,000 years are being destroyed and crushed right under our noses. This is a testament to Israel’s weakness."

“I demand that all relevant authorities investigate the incident, restore the archeological site - to be paid for by the perpetrator - and allow the Shomron Regional Council to enforce, supervise and help restore and preserve heritage sites in its area. There is no other way today to protect heritage sites in the West Bank,” he continued.

Adi Shargai, the head of the Shomrim Netzach, an organization that protects and develops heritage sites throughout Judea and Samaria, agreed with Dagan.

“While the State of Israel is fighting for its existence, our enemies exploit this vacuum and act to erase our heritage,” said Shargai.

“This is a serious escalation that we haven’t seen yet. An archeological site has been completely destroyed and turned into a parking lot. The identity of the Palestinian perpetrators is known. Israel has a moral obligation to punish them to the fullest extent, including prison time and significant fines.”

The vandalism is far from an isolated occurrence. Palestinians frequently seek to destroy archaeological remnants of Jewish heritage sites.

In January, Palestinians vandalized Joshua’s Altar on Mt. Ebal, close to the biblical city of Shechem. According to Israel Today, “local Arab residents burned tires at the site outside Nablus [Shechem] in Samaria, spray-painted Arabic graffiti and erected a PLO flag on the altar.”

The Palestinian Authority is reportedly planning to build a new neighborhood on the mountain which, if implemented, could effectively destroy and bury the biblical site.

“In the face of the barbaric destruction that the Palestinian Authority is trying to carry out here, all this to erase the connection of the people of Israel to their land and their roots, we stand here and we say – the people of Israel will win. Living in Samaria is not only a privilege, to enjoy the beautiful land; living in Samaria is also a responsibility - to preserve the sacred places of our history - to preserve civilization,” Dagan said during a large protest at the site in October 2023.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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