illegal digging
illegal diggingצילום: שומרים על הנצח

The Civil Administration's enforcement activity in Judea and Samaria has been reduced by more than two thirds during the coronavirus crisis. Grave robbers and treasure hunters have taken advantage of the lull in enforcement to raid antiquities sites in Judea and Samaria.

A week ago, members of the 'Shomrim al Hanetzach' organization which works to preserve heritage sites in Judea and Samaria reported a particularly intense robbery excavation in a cave located in the Mount Kabir Nature Reserve between Elon Moreh and the Jordan Valley.

A tour of the site yesterday revealed that during the past week three new openings were broken in the rock wall, probably with the aim of reaching the depths of the cave.

Also, the Ein Samia site in East Binyamin, where very rare artifacts have been found, has been severely damaged by treasure hunters in recent weeks.

At this site, archaeological remains of an ancient city known as Hirbat Marjama, and archaeological excavations there in the past, found particularly rare finds from the Middle Bronze Age - some 4,000 years ago - including a wide wall and tower, shaft graves and a silver goblet with a scene with Mesopotamian motifs.

Recently, an Arab-owned quarry operating in the Palestinian Authority has begun to invade the area of the Ein Samiya reserve - in a way that could cause serious environmental damage.

Last week, Shomrim al Hanetzach reported to the antiquities inspectors about a robbery squad that had begun digging near the entrance to Jerusalem. Swift action by the authorities led to the capture of the thieves. Another squad was caught in Ein Samia after the quick intervention by the archaeological unit.

"The State of Israel is currently in an all-out battle against the coronavirus, but we must not forget the day after, and do not neglect our eternal treasures," said Ethan Melt, the coordinator of the Shomrim al Hanetzach. "The freedom of action of the pirates demonstrates perfectly why the antiquities inspectors are essential workers who must be in full production and receive additional manpower. We urge Defense Minister Naftali Bennett to return them to the area as soon as possible."

(Credit: Shomrim al Hanetzach)