update deskArchaeology

Thousands march to threatened biblical site in Samaria

The Palestinian Authority has been paving roads as part of a project for 32 housing units on the ruins of what many believe to be Joshua's biblical altar on Mount Ebal.

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan during a march to the biblical site of Joshua's Altar on Mount Ebal in Samaria, Oct. 2, 2023. Photo by Elihay Menachem/Samaria Regional Council.
Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan during a march to the biblical site of Joshua's Altar on Mount Ebal in Samaria, Oct. 2, 2023. Photo by Elihay Menachem/Samaria Regional Council.

Israeli politicians, local leaders, prominent rabbis and others marched on Monday as part of a Sukkot event to a threatened site in northern Samaria that many believe to be of major biblical significance. The group numbered some 10,000, according to the Samaria Regional Council.

Mount Ebal, located just north of Shechem (Nablus), is regarded by many as one of the most important Jewish heritage sites in the Land of Israel. The Book of Joshua relates that Moses’s successor built an altar on the mountain as part of a covenant renewal ceremony soon after the Israelites, who had fled Egyptian slavery, entered the Holy Land.

The Iron Age compound, dating to the 11th century BCE, is located in Area B, which is under Israeli security and Palestinian civilian control. Israeli Jews are not usually allowed to visit without prior authorization from the Israel Defense Forces.

Earlier this month, an inspector from the Samaria Regional Council’s Lands Department discovered that the Palestinian Authority has been paving roads as part of a project for 32 housing units on the ruins of the historic site.

In response, more than 30 leading Religious Zionist rabbis, mainly from Judea and Samaria communities, this week called on followers to join the march “to the place where the covenant was made between the people, their land and their Torah.”

During Monday’s rally, Yossi Dagan, head of the council, accused Ramallah of trying to carry out “barbaric destruction” with an eye toward “erasing the connection of the people of Israel to their land and their roots.”

“Living in Samaria is not only a privilege to enjoy this beautiful land. Living in Samaria is also a responsibility to preserve the sacred places of our history, to preserve civilization,” Dagan said.

The event included musical performances, food stalls and children’s activities, as well as speeches by lawmakers from the Religious Zionist Party.

“Here on Mount Ebal, the Palestinian Authority is carrying out one of the most serious crimes, which is the destruction of heritage,” charged Israeli National Missions Minister Orit Strock, vowing that the government in Jerusalem “will not stand idly by.”

Nine months ago, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said he instructed the IDF to patrols the area frequently to protect the site.

“The enforcement authorities in the Judea and Samaria area will take action, if necessary, in accordance with the responsibilities they carry under the law and the agreements,” COGAT, the Defense Ministry body that deals with Palestinian civilian affairs, told JNS.

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