CaesareaFlash 90

After a long legal battle, a court recently ruled that building plans for a new residential neighborhood in the city of Caesarea would have to be put on hold because of the presence of important archaeological artifacts in the land where the construction is planned.

The ruling is a victory for the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). Arutz Sheva visited Caesarea and spoke with the IAA's legal council after the ruling was handed down.

"This is a project aimed at building a residential neighborhood in Caesarea opposite the aqueduct," said Attorney Radwan Badahi, legal council for the IAA. "The project was presented to the planning committees back in 2008 and the work on it began. Following this, the IAA performed archaeological excavations in the area planned for the neighborhood. The excavations found some of the most important archaeological artifacts ever discovered in Israel. I won't exaggerate if I say they are among the most important ever discovered in the entire world. These are antiquities which make up a part of the ancient city of Caesarea from the Byzantine Roman period. A cemetery was discovered in the area as well as ancient architectural remains, agricultural facilities, a mosaic and other important archaeological artifacts.

"In light of these findings," he explained, "the head of the IAA decided to form a steering committee that was made up of the highest archaeological officials in the country. The steering committee recommended to the head of the IAA not to allow construction in the planned residential neighborhood. In light of this, the IAA director decided to adopt the recommendations of the committee and vetoed the building plans.

"There is no doubt that this is an area with a high real estate value," explained Badahi. "This is a project which will establish 28 plots for residential buildings. It has a real estate value of hundreds of millions of shekels, and therefore the legal battle was persistent and difficult. I would say that the company for developing Caesarea, which usually cooperates with the IAA and which is also responsible for the national park in Caesarea where there are many antiquities, in this case was led by considerations of real estate. It didn't come to terms with the fact that the IAA is not prepared to approve the plans, and therefore the legal battle was persistent for many years and ultimately it was decided in favor of protecting the antiquities."