IDF exercise 248.88.
(photo credit: IDF )
As the fourth annual week devoted to the cooperation of the IDF and the Israel Antiquities Authority in preserving the country's environment and antiquities gets into full gear, archeologists and IDF officials are hailing the progress made on the issue over the past few years.
This year's program, which began on Sunday and will end on Thursday, July 2, includes a series of lectures - attended by all the commanders involved in the joint effort - with the last day to focus primarily on current archeological issues.
In the past, the IDF mainly contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) only when it had run across - or over - one of the many ancient ruins scattered throughout the country. It was not until the past few years that the two were able to focus on preemptive actions aimed at avoiding damage to archeological sites, said Yoram Haimi, an archeologist from the IAA who specializes in Israel's southern regions.
"There wasn't much awareness in the IDF about the issue of antiquities on bases and training grounds," Haimi told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. "Soldiers just didn't know they had to think about antiquities before going to train. But now, the units send us a map of each of the areas where they are going to have exercises, we check out the area, and then give them the O.K."
"In the past, the IDF was not as involved due to our lack of awareness," said Capt. Marina Kushnir, who heads the environmental section of the IDF's planning branch. "We understand that the IDF needs to act in accordance with the law, and we want to do so."
Currently, the army worked closely with the IAA on a day-to-day basis, Kushnir said, coordinating building, planning and training schedules. The IAA has also begun to hold sessions during the IDF's basic training, to educate soldiers on the importance of archeology. During their presentations, they survey the history of various areas and hope to instill knowledge of the sites and styles soldiers could encounter in the field.
"We have 27,000 archeological sites in Israel, most of which are in the Negev," an area where many of the IDF's training exercises are conducted, Haimi said. "And if you aren't shown the [archeological] remains, you would never know they were there."