Legal battle against the archaeological excavations in Tel Rumeida – Update

16 December 2014

In early 2014 the City of Hebron and Tel Rumeida residents petitioned the Israeli High Court against the archaeological excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority in Tel Rumeida, Hebron. [1] From January to August 2014 archaeological excavations took place in what are known as lots 52 and 53 (see attached map).[2]  These areas are designated to be part of Hebron’s archaeological park, to be managed by the settlers in the city.

At a hearing in September 2014, the petitioners argued that the land is under the responsibility of the Palestinian families, and that no Israeli authorities or settlers in Hebron have a right to conduct an archaeological excavation at the site. The State argued that the lands are the responsibility of the Custodian of Absentee Property. Following the petition, it became clear that these areas had already been leased in 2012 to the Jewish Community in Hebron foundation by the Israeli Custodian.

The court asked why an ancient site was leased to a private organization and demanded explanations for this. Both sides were given time to present their claims and another hearing was set for 31 December 2014.

The issue of an ancient site being passed into private hands is not unique to Tel Rumeida and is common in many places in the West Bank, such as Tel Shiloh, Sussia and more. In Tel Rumeida a difficult battle has been waging since the 1980s, whereby the settlers are making efforts to seize the lands and take charge of them.

At the hearing to be held on 31 December 2014 the Court will have to decide on the question of the lands’ ownership, the issue of the right to lease an archaeological site to a private organization, as well as whether the tenant (the Jewish Community in Hebron foundation) is entitled to engage in an archaeological excavation, which means a change on the ground and an irreversible situation in zoning. The Court’s decision will be very significant for the political struggle in Tel Rumeida. Continued excavations with the approval of the Supreme Court will greatly help all settlers to promote the archaeological park in Hebron and to claim a significant portion of the mound.

For additional information see Emek Shaveh’s publication: Tel Rumeida—Hebron’s Archaeological Park (2014).

[1] N. Hasson, “Israeli government funding dig in Palestinian Hebron, near Jewish enclave,” Haaretz, 9 January 2014

[2] Emek Shaveh, Update: The Archaeological Excavations in Tel Rumeida, Hebron, April 2014

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