Civil Administration Approves Construction Plan for Lift at Tomb of the Patriarchs

and Acknowledges that the Civil Administration’s Staff Officer for Archaeology was not Involved in the Planning Process

Following pressure from Defence Minister Benny Gantz, the Civil Administration Planning Committee approved construction of a lift at the Tomb of the Patriarchs ▪ Emek Shaveh considers petitioning Appeals Committee of Higher Planning Council in the Civil Administration. ▪ The plan will inflict record level of damage to the historic structure and is a dangerous precedent

The planning and licensing subcommittee of the Civil Administration, responsible for the approval of construction plans in the West Bank, approved on Monday, September 29th, the construction of a lift at the Tomb of the Patriarchs. The approval was granted after two discussions to which representatives of the objectors, the Hebron Municipality and Emek Shaveh, were invited.

Emek Shaveh’s objection claimed that the proposed plan will detract from the character of the historic site and damage the ancient structure. The Tomb of the Patriarchs is the most ancient intact structure in the West Bank, and it includes remains from the 1stc BCE, the reign of King Herod, the Byzantine and Crusader periods, the Mamluk period, and others.

During the committee discussions, it emerged that the Staff Officer for Archaeology in the Civil Administration who is responsible for protecting the antiquities in the West Bank was not involved in the details of the plan, and his participation amounted merely to a general presentation of requirements so as to inflict minimum damage to the site. The construction of a such a massive lift at an antiquities site, without examining the conservation needs and without the ongoing oversight of the Civil Administration’s archaeology unit, especially at a site as important as the Tomb of the Patriarchs, flies in the face of every professional standard.

Emek Shaveh’s Response: One need not be an archaeologist or architect to review the council’s plan and understand that it is destructive in a manner which is unprecedented. We are convinced that the plan, as approved, would never have been promoted had it not been driven by political motives.

Thirty days remains during which we can submit an appeal to the Civil Administration’s Higher Planning Council; we are seriously considering this option.