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Rivlin urges army to protect West Bank shrine said damaged by PA construction

Palestinian workers constructing road damaged part of Mount Ebal archeological complex believed by many to be biblical Joshua’s altar

Palestinian Authority workers destroyed part of the retaining wall of a West Bank archeological complex believed to house an altar built by biblical Joshua on February 11, 2021 (Screencapture/twitter)
Palestinian Authority workers destroyed part of the retaining wall of a West Bank archeological complex believed to house an altar built by biblical Joshua on February 11, 2021 (Screencapture/twitter)

President Reuven Rivlin on Friday urged Defense Minister Benny Gantz to investigate damage to an archeological site on Mount Ebal (Har Eival in Hebrew) in the West Bank that many believe to contain the biblical Joshua’s altar.

“The reports of damage to the altar site at Har Eival concern me deeply,” Rivlin wrote to Gantz after Channel 12 broadcast footage it said was of Palestinian Authority workers grinding stones from the site to use as gravel in a road being built between a nearby village and the city of Nablus.

Local settlement council officials reported that the damage at the site was caused to 35 meters (114 feet) of an external retaining wall of the complex and not the actual altar compound.

“Our land has a bounty of holy sites of immense religious, historic and archeological value. These sites, including the altar of Joshua at Har Eival, are heritage sites of incalculable national and universal value,” Rivlin wrote, according to his office.

Many archeologists believe that the complex on Mount Ebal contains the altar built by Joshua after the Israelites entered the Land of Israel and won a victory at Ai.

According to the Bible, the site and nearby Mount Gerizim are where God offered the Israelites the blessings and the curses of the Land of Israel.

Others, including the Samaritans, who have their holiest place on Mount Gerizim, believe the altar is there.

Both Ebal and Gerizim are in Area B of the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority controls civilian affairs with the IDF in charge of security. Israelis wanting to visit the sites need special permission from the army and an escort.

“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,” wrote Rivlin. “It is inconceivable that we, who are rooted in these heritage sites all across the country, do not ensure that that our heritage sites are protected against all kinds of damage and harm,” he said.

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