The remains of hundreds of Second Temple-era Jews who were buried in the Jericho area were re-interred on Tuesday in the nearby settlement of Kfar Adumim after they were found scattered outside tombs damaged by Palestinian agricultural work in the area.
The remains were found near the Hasmonean Palace in Jericho, one of the world’s oldest cities, after their tombs were said to have been looted.
According to the pro-settlement activist group Regavim, the tombs were “looted by Arab grave-robbers.”
The bones were reinterred at the Kfar Adumim cemetery in a funeral attended by hundreds that was organized by archaeologists from the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration and by the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council.
Activists who keep watch over believed Jewish archaeological sites in the area discovered the destroyed tombs, which had apparently been partly demolished by Palestinian tractor drivers attempting to clear an area for planting several weeks ago.
Local farmers reportedly told the activists that “the sarcophagi from which the bones were removed had recently ‘disappeared,'” Regavim said in a statement Tuesday.
Residents of local Israeli villages, military officials and an assortment of right-wing public figures took part in the funeral.
Local leaders and activists lashed what they called Palestinian “trampling” of archaeological sites linked to millennia of Jewish history in the West Bank.
Regavim director Meir Deutsch called the burial “an act of true grace, not only toward the remains of our ancestors but to our heritage and our history, which are being brutally trampled by the Palestinian Authority – in Jericho and in thousands of other archaeological sites throughout Judea and Samaria, the land of the Bible and the cradle of Jewish culture,” according to quotes from the funeral released by Regavim.
Mateh Binyamin Council head Yisrael Gantz also spoke at the re-interment, lashing the believed destroyers of the tombs as “greedy, callous thieves who have no respect for human dignity [and] laid their hands on the remains of our ancestors.'”
He promised to erect a “proper memorial stone” at the site within days.