The Palestinian Authority, taking advantage of the absence of Civil Administration inspectors during the coronavirus shutdown, is consolidating its takeover of "Tel Aroma," a Hasmonean fortress in Samaria. The PA’s most recent project has caused unspeakable damage to the antiquities at this unique site: Yesterday (Sunday) a fleet of heavy engineering tools from the Palestinian Authority and the Beta Village Council arrived at Tel Aroma, and paved a road leading toward the remains of the fortress.

Nearly three months ago, Regavim’s “Preserving the Eternal” Project documented and reported on an access path that had been steamrolled at the site, and the massive flagpole and Palestinian Authority flag, visible for miles, that had been erected on top of the ancient ruins of Tel Aromah, near the Jewish community of Itamar.

The Tel Aroma Fortress is the northernmost of eight fortresses established by the Hasmonean Kingdom to protect Israel’s eastern border. It is situated on a commanding ridge that controls the passage between the Jordan Valley and the heart of Samaria.

In recent months, the Palestinian Authority 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 24/7. 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 “Preserving the Eternal,” a non-profit 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 said: "Enforcement authorities must give this matter the attention it deserves; they have a responsibility to live up to, this is their job and we expect them to do it. This systematic destruction of Jewish heritage sites throughout Judea and Samaria cannot continue. We demand that they put an immediate stop to the ongoing destruction of Tel Aroma; we call upon the relevant authorities to take action without delay."

Eitan Melet, Field Coordinator for the Preserving the Eternal Project who documented the recent roadwork and destruction at the site, called on Defense Minister Naftali Bennett to intervene immediately: "Minister of Defense Bennett, you have left a significant imprint on the Ministry of Defense in a short period of time. Now is the time to establish the legacy of your tenure – a legacy that will prove that the State of Israel protects its eternal birthright in the Land of Israel."

Regavim and its Preserving the Eternal Project call – once again – on the Prime Minister 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."