Palestinian Authority Continues Eradication of Hasmonean-Era Fortress

By TPS • 11 May 2020
Photo courtesy of Shomrim Al Hanetzach

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is continuing to destroy Tel Aroma, a Hasmonean-era fortress in Samaria which it seized in February and converted it into “a Palestinian tourist site” as part of its campaign to seize Jewish heritage sites and transform them into “Palestinian sites” while systematically demolishing archaeological findings.

Under the cover of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) shutdown, during which Civil Administration inspectors were kept home, the PA rolled heavy machinery over the remains of the ancient fortress, paving an access road that has destroyed the remains of the 3000-year-old fortress walls and water cisterns.

By doing so PA is consolidating its takeover of Tel Aroma. The PA’s recent work at the site caused immense damage to the antiquities at this unique site. On Sunday, a fleet of heavy engineering tools from the PA and the Beta Village Council arrived at Tel Aroma and paved a road leading toward the remains of the fortress.

The Shomrim Al Hanetzach‎ (Preserving the Eternal) organization discovered in February that the PA has installed a new massive flag mast and lighting at the fortress of Arama, an ancient Hasmonean archeological site which dominates the ancient road from Shechem (Nablus) to the Jordan Valley.

Tel Aruma, which is mentioned in the Bible as the city of Avimelech, was the northernmost fortress of the Jewish state during the Hasmonean period and one of eight fortresses built by the Hasmonean Kingdom to protect Israel’s eastern border.

In recent months, the PA has been making concerted efforts and investing considerable resources to take over the site, installing generators and perimeter lighting, erecting tents alongside the huge flagpost platform, and manning them around the clock.

Senior PA and Beta Municipality officials recently held a ceremony, at which the Hasmonean fortress was declared a “Palestinian Heritage Site,” a claim that purportedly affords them the “right” to carry out the work that has caused the destruction of the fortress wall and reservoirs.

This is the culmination of a year-long process of ongoing destruction, according to members of Shomrim Al Hanetzach, a project of the Regavim Movement that works in cooperation with the Shomron Regional Council’s Infrastructure Department to preserve historic and archaeological sites in Judea and Samaria.

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan assessed the destruction of the site and demanded that enforcement authorities “give this matter the attention it deserves.”

“This systematic destruction of Jewish heritage sites throughout Judea and Samaria cannot continue,” he added.

Eitan Melet, Field Coordinator for Shomrim Al Hanetzach who documented the recent roadwork and destruction at the site, called on Defense Minister Naftali Bennett to intervene immediately.

Regavim and its Preserving the Eternal Project again called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to adopt the National Emergency Plan for the Preservation of Historic Sites, which was presented to the government last year.

“It is inconceivable that the State of Israel, which signed international treaties for the preservation of ancient sites, is allowing this wholesale destruction to continue,” they stated.

The PA has previously taken control of Israeli and Jewish heritage sites in an attempt to usurp it of its national identity and legacy, in contradiction to the historical and archaeological findings.