Israel entrusted one of its great archaeological treasures to the Palestinians. They destroyed it.
The Palestinians are systematically destroying King Herod’s grand Third Palace in Jericho by stripping its stone and building homes around it, thereby erasing a testament to the Jews’ deep roots to the Land of Israel.
Israel Hayom reported Tuesday that a team from the Kfar Etzion Field School visited the site recently and was appalled to find that the Palestinians, who received the important site as part of the Oslo Accords, had built housing around it. Some homes were constructed on the grounds of the palace itself. The remains of the palace are being systematically demolished to construct a road. The historic edifice is being stripped of its stone, and the supporting pillars and arches have been defaced.
Most of Herod’s Third Palace, lies within Area A, under full Palestinian control.
Not far away, in Area C, are the Hasmonean palaces, the most important preserved Hasmonean site in Israel.
The Hasmonean palaces are located in Area C, under full Israeli control, but can only be accessed via Area A, where the Palestinians are in full control.
The Palestinians began building illegally next to the site and desecrating it. One of the palaces was even vandalized with a swastika. Natural wear and tear had also taken its toll.
Under the guidance of Israeli Minister Zeev Elkin, the IDF and the Civil Administration stopped Palestinian assaults on the site. Elkin invested millions in preservation work. The Hasmonean palaces are safe.
However, the Herodian palace, under full PA control, is exposed to all manner of desecration and destruction. When the Israeli Civil Administration, which has no authority in Area A, received reports of the destruction taking place at the palace, they tried to exert influence and to reach out to local village leaders, but the Palestinian construction around the Third Palace has not stopped.
It’s Time for Israel to Say, ‘No More’
Along with Caesarea, the city of Sebastia north of Shechem (Nablus), Herodian, and the Temple, the winter palaces Herod built for himself at Jericho were the grandest of his projects in the Holy Land.
Yaron Rosenthal, director of the Kfar Etzion Field School, who sometimes works with the Palestinians on environmental preservation projects, expressed anger at the destruction.
“Israel sees how one of the grandest palaces ever built in the Holy Land is being destroyed, and [Israel] is standing by helplessly, because under the Oslo Accords the site, which is 30 meters from Area C, was made the responsibility of the Palestinians. It’s time for Israel to say, ‘no more.’ With all due respect to the Oslo Accords, we will not let [the Palestinians] destroy important [archaeological] remains linked to the history of the Jewish people in their land, remains that are part of the cultural fabric of this country,” Rosenthal stated.
“We [Israelis] are horrified when to our east and north, the Islamic State destroys archaeological treasures, or when Jewish cemeteries are desecrated in Europe. But when it happens a few dozen yards from our own territory, we’re helpless. The Palestinians are causing damage, building a residential neighborhood on top of this unique site, wrecking it with tractors, and causing irreparable damage, which must be stopped.”
The Palestinian Authority has refused to comment.