Illegal Arab buildings on ancient site destroyed

After Supreme Court appeal, Civil Admin destroys illegal Arab buildings on archaeological site, though not in time to save most remains.

Orly Harari ,

Illegal construction at Hirbat Marjam
Illegal construction at Hirbat Marjam

The Civil Administration has destroyed several illegal Arab buildings at the Khirbet Marjam archaeological site, near Kochav Hashachar

The site contains archaeological findings from the time of the Bible, as well as a system of hidden tunnels dating back to the end of the Second Temple and the Bar Kochva revolt. Due to its significance, Great Britain declared it to be a unique archaeological site during the Second World War.

About a decade ago, Arab criminals began residing in the area and building residences and agricultural structures inside of the archaeological site. In doing so, their use of heavy engineering tools caused massive destruction to ancient remains. Most of the archaeological site has already been damage or destroyed.

About eight months ago - during the shiva period following the murder of Malachi Rosenfeld, a resident of Kochav Hashachar who was shot dead by terrorists - a new illegal home was set up, overlooking the scene of the attack. The home was surrounded by a large stone wall, apparently using rocks taken from the historical site itself.

Since the entire complex is located in Area C and under complete Israeli control, the NGO Regavim appealed to the Civil Authority with the demand to stop the continuing destruction and building, and to take criminal action against the perpetrators. This is in accordance with the law prohibiting construction in archaeological sites as well as customary international law, which mandates the protection of cultural and archaeological treasures.

About four months ago, after the Civil Administration had not responded to repeated inquiries, Regavim submitted a petition to the Supreme Court. The Court is expected to look into the case within the next few months, but investigators have already been sent to the site with heavy machinery to destroy a number of illegal buildings.

"This is much-needed and appropriate enforcement," Regavim stated. "It is 'too little, too late' for the antiquities here, but this is of course a welcome first step of the long road that enforcement authorities must take."

Regavim is an Israeli NGO that works to maintain historical sites and fights illegal Arab construction.