PLO flag in Samoa ruins
PLO flag in Samoa ruinsArutz Sheva

About 200 people who visited the ancient Judean synagogue at Samoa, near Hevron, on Sunday, found spray-painted swastikas on the walls of the structure and PLO flags flying above them.

The visit marked 80 years since the start of archeological digs at the site, which are currently being carried out by the Herzog College and the Susia Field School.

About 350 people took part in a conference at the site, and 200 of them opted for a tour of the synagogue, in order to see the unique structure from up close and better understand the part it played in local Jewish history.

Har Hevron Regional Council Head Yochai Dimri said that it is “shocking to see a holy place desecrated in this way.”

"I expect the police to take care of this with at least the same severity in which such matters are taken care of in sites that are sacred to other religions.”

This is not the first time swastikas were scrawled at the site. In 2009, Arutz Sheva reported a similar incident.

Less than two weeks ago, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and other holy sites, condemned the desecration of the grave of the Tannaic Rabbi Halafta in the Galilee - and the silence of other religious leaders after the vandalism. The grave was found desecrated in an anti-Semitic version of "price tag" vandalism. 

"When there is damage to the holy places of other religions, Jewish spiritual leaders denounce the attacks," Rabbi Rabinowitz noted. "But we have unfortunately not heard the condemnation and protest from our Muslim counterparts against this heinous act." 

The Samoa ruins were first discovered in 1934. The synagogue dates back to the fourth century, and Jews apparently abandoned it in the eighth century, during the beginning of Muslim rule. Muslims have built a mosque adjacent to the ruins.

Dr. Doron Sar-Avi, who teaches history, geography and Biblical archaeology, told Israel National News that several Arab homes in Samoa include doorposts that stood in the ruins, including a depiction of menorahs.

The synagogue that existed in ancient Samoa is significantly larger than the more widely-known ancient synagogue in nearby Susiya, he added.

Both synagogues were built around the same time, and Jews abandoned them for unknown reasons, possibly because of a declining economy, desert marauders or the Muslim conquest. Whereas the mosaic floor, steps, some columns and the entrance to the Susiya synagogue remain intact, little remains in Samoa except for the walls and stones where the Holy Ark once stood.