President Reuven Rivlin called on the IDF to investigate the damage done by Palestinian workers last week to the outer biblical-era wall surrounding the site of Joshua’s altar on Mount Ebal.
“The reports of damage to the altar site... concern me deeply, and I am writing to you to thoroughly investigate the case in order to ensure no further such damage is done to heritage sites,” Rivlin wrote in a letter he sent to Alternative Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz. “Our land has a bounty of holy sites of immense religious, historic and archaeological value. These sites, including the altar of Joshua... are heritage sites of incalculable national and universal value.”
The president added that “As sovereigns in our land, we do everything possible to ensure freedom of worship and to protect and honor the holy sites of all religions living in it. It is inconceivable that we, who are rooted in these heritage sites all across the country, do not ensure that our heritage sites are protected against all kinds of damage and harm.
The site of Joshua’s altar is located in Area B of the West Bank and as such is under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority. The IDF has civilian authority only in Area C of the West Bank.
The damage was caused by workers who were building a road connecting the town of Asira ash-Shamaliya with the nearby Palestinian city of Nablus, also known as the biblical city of Shechem.
The municipality has apologized for the damage which it said was by accident.
“We are currently working on renovating the road that connects the village with the eastern part of Nablus,” the municipality said. “The work is being carried out by a private contractor, who apparently caused damage to a wall near the road. The contractor will repair the damage, which was caused unintentionally.”
Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan wrote to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Director-General Audrey Azoulay and asked her to condemn the destruction.
The council, along with the right-wing archaeology group Shomrim al Hanetzach, have since visited the site and repaired 35 m. of damage to the western wall of the site. It did not fix an additional 20 m. of damage to the northern wall, which it said, would need archaeological work prior to repair.