Armed Palestinian police arrested two Israeli archaeologists this morning (Monday) at an archaeological site in northern Samaria, in an area under full Israeli jurisdiction.
“Preserving the Eternal,” a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of archaeological and other historical sites in Judea and Samaria, has recently carried out a mapping project of ancient sites suffering from pirate excavations, looting and severe damage to artifacts.
This project was launched after President Trump unveiled his “deal of the century” – which led to massive damage at over 100 antiquities sites. The situation was further aggravated by the corona-induced lockdown, when 70% of the Civil Administration’s Archeology Inspection Unit was furloughed.
Eitan Melet, Field Coordinator for “Preserving the Eternal,” set out this morning (Monday) with two archaeologists to the Tel Parsin site in northern Samaria, in an area under full Israeli jurisdiction, to inspect and document damage to the site.
The site, which is a 5-minute drive from the Jewish community of Hermesh in northern Samaria, preserves the biblical name ‘Parash’ (a descendant of Menashe) and the Talmudic name ‘Kfar Parshai’.
The site contains the remains of a large settlement that existed almost continuously from the Iron Age to the Ottoman period.
Among the noteworthy remains is a ritual bath (mikveh) that was excavated during the Second Temple period and remained in use until the Byzantine period, burial caves, an oil press cave, various underground systems, and impressive Ottoman-era structures.
The team of archaeologists encountered a Palestinian police checkpoint – in an area under full Israeli control, where Palestinian police are not permitted to operate, and most certainly may not bear arms.
“The Palestinian Police officers demanded that we get our of our vehicles, and we refused,” says Melet. “These were unpleasant moments, but the situation was more infuriating than frightening. After contacting the IDF, and with the mediation of Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, the Palestinian policemen decided to “hand us over” us to the IDF at the nearby Dotan checkpoint.”
“The city of Parash has never been excavated by archaeologists – but it has been thoroughly and aggressively excavated by local Arab looters and grave-robbers, because the State of Israel does not take responsibility,” adds Melet. “To me, this is the flip side of the coin of Palestinian Police operating, fully armed, in areas that are clearly and unarguably under Israeli jurisdiction. We urge the Israeli government to formulate a plan of action that will protect our heritage sites. ”