Israeli park rangers found over the weekend that Arab rioters had set ablaze and vandalized parts of Samaria National Park, located about 33 miles north of Jerusalem in the West Bank.
The park rangers, members of an organization dedicated to maintenance of heritage sites in the region on behalf of the Samaria Regional Council, documented and reported the damage.
The park rangers found some of the archaeological artifacts at the biblical site sprayed and painted on with Arabic script. Additional footage from the area revealed extensive damage caused by intentional fire.
“Time after time, the Palestinian Authority destroys historical heritage sites in Judea and Samaria in a barbaric manner, and each time a new red line is crossed,” said Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan.
Adi Shargai from Shomrim Netzach told ALL ISRAEL NEWS that acts of vandalism at the site have been recurring throughout the month of July, but that the fire over the weekend caused “another level of damage” and is a “criminal offense.”
According to Jewish tradition, biblical Samaria was the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel in the 9th and 8th centuries B.C. It was the second most-important city after Jerusalem, which was the capital of the southern kingdom.
The city of Samaria fell to the Assyrians in 722 B.C. and was given to Herod the Great, who named it “Sebastia.” Archaeological excavations at the site have revealed relics from different historical periods.
The head of the regional council decried the extensive vandalism, blaming the Israeli government for neglecting the site.
“The Palestinian Authority is erasing the land of the bible, while the Israeli government keeps its eyes shut,” Shargai added.
“This is an attack on Israel’s heritage,” Dagan said. “It is unfeasible that our history will be erased and wiped away in the middle of the country. Whoever burns the country, more so in such an important place, does not own the country,” he added.
Dagan called on the Israeli government and the Israel Defense Forces to guard the area and to hold the rioters accountable. Some had taken pictures revealing their faces, according to a local organization.
The desecration of Jewish holy sites is a recurring phenomenon in the West Bank. In April, Joseph’s Tomb was targeted by Palestinians and later repaired under IDF protection.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.