Settler License for Archaeological Site Cancelled

19 November 2015

In a victory for civil rights and democracy, the Israel Civil Administration has cancelled the license given to the Jewish settlement of Hebron to run an archaeological site in the heart of the Palestinian neighborhood Tel Rumedia. The decision follows a legal petition by NIF grantees Emek Shaveh and Breaking the Silence.

In January 2014 a new archaeological excavation (directed by the Israel Antiquities Authority and Ariel University, and funded by the Israeli government) began in Tel Rumeida, aiming to prepare the ground for an archaeological park to be managed by the ‘Committee of the Jewish Community of Hebron.’ The excavation took place in an area overlooking the Jewish settlement of Admot Yeshai and among the homes of Palestinians. Tel Rumeida contains archaeological remains from 4,000 years ago onwards; the current excavation found remains of industrial and water storage facilities from the Roman period.

Emek Shaveh and Breaking the Silence filed a petition in 2015, claiming that the allocation was made without legal contracts and was not done according to regulation. They also argued that the Palestinian residents of Hebron should manage the site, and not the settlers. Following the ruling, a spokesperson for the two Israeli civil society groups said: “The Civil Administration recognized that the allocation to the settlers was not made properly… The ruling that the agreement would have to be brought to the Attorney General means that even the Civil Administration understands that it is not possible to hand out ancient sites to the settlers based on their demands and political pressure.”

Additionally, after nearly 100 years of searching, remains of the Acra Fortress, built by Antiochus as he sought to quell a Jewish rebellion, have been found in a Palestinian neighborhood near Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. There were plans to build a massive compound on the site, but Emek Shaveh and Ir Amim successfully campaigned against it.