Hamed picked me up from Hebron at 7am. Naheel and Issam gave me a wonderful picnic breakfast to take and then, unexpectedly Hamed stopped at a roadside stall where we got coffee and pita filled with egg and cheese! So I certainly had enough food for the rest of the day!
I was very privileged to go with Hamed and Rami, a Finnish journalist who was an EA in Hebron last year, to meet with a group to look at the political archeology of the site of Shiloh between Ramallah and Nablus where the Jews believe that the tabernacle containing the Ark of the Covenant was originally situated before it was moved to Jerusalem.
We met outside the Israeli settlement that contained the site. Our group was led by Emek Shaveh of Archaeology Without Borders, a member of Yesh Din, 2 members of Medecins du Monde, which is affiliated to MSF, but more witness and development than emergency humanitarian, as well as a woman from the French Consul.
The site ticks every box for political archaeology, as Palestinians in the West Bank were removed from their own property to create it and the settlement upon which it sits. The aim of the excavations are to find the remains, or at least to locate, the site of the original Tabernacle rather than to study all the findings from the many layers objectively. The site is located within an Israeli settlement thereby excluding the Palestinians both from the archaeology, their old village and lands and the mosque they used until the 1970s. There are a lot of Byzantine mosaics and a church used as the location for a model of the Tabernacle and the 2 mosques preserved, because one had previously been a church and the other might have been a synagogue. In fact the settlement has recently been prevented, or at least delayed, in their bid to turn the whole site into a major tourist park to attract huge numbers of visitors. It was all fascinating, because we were shown the site from different perspectives and learnt a great deal about the different kinds of archaeological sites in both the West Bank and Israel.
This site is big enough to have reached international attention. Unfortunately the Israeli excavations on Palestinian land in Tel Rumeda in H1 area of Hebron, have not had the outcry it has deserved.
I was given a very good booklet called Tel Shiloh – Archaeological settlement in the political struggle over Samaria. It is hugely informative and fascinating and I would recommend it to anyone who would like to investigate further.