Jewish synagogues and holy sites in Jericho, Nablus and Gush Katif were torched to the ground while Palestinian police looked on.He also documents some destruction of Christian historic and religious sites.
In 1996, Palestinian mobs assaulted Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem, and Palestinian policemen on the scene shot and wounded the Israeli soldiers guarding the tomb. Ever since, the site has been sheathed in high concrete barriers, turning it into a Fort Knox-like encampment. Then a Palestinian mob led by Palestinian policemen assaulted Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, torched the synagogue inside, and opened fire on Israeli troops at the site, killing six Israeli soldiers.
In 2000, Palestinian mobs once again attacked. They killed one Israeli soldier and destroyed the building. Palestinian forces again took part. The Shalom Al Yisrael synagogue in Jericho with its unique Byzantine-era mosaic floor was also torched. Today, Israelis have only sporadic access to the site.
As for Gush Katif, the wild Palestinian mob destruction of all the synagogues there is just too fresh and painful a wound to talk about ...
Detail of mosaic at Gaza synagogue
Under Palestinian rule, Tulul Abu el Alayiq, near Wadi Qelt and Jericho, has been left to decay. This is an important archaeological site where Hasmonian kings and Herod built their winter palaces. The nearby Naaran synagogue -- perhaps the earliest synagogue in Israel -- is threatened by Palestinian real estate developers who are building practically atop the site. Israeli archaeologists who have managed to visit there say that the Palestinian Authority has let the place rot.
The authority has also allowed villagers to encroach upon the important synagogue remains in Eshtemoa in the southern Mount Hebron area. Neither Israeli archaeologists nor Israeli worshippers and tourists have access to the site (which is located in Area B), despite the fact that the Oslo Accords supposedly guaranteed this.
Mosaic at Na'aran synagogue
It is important to note that these three sites are specified by name in the appendices to the Oslo Accords, and defined as historical and religious sites which the Palestinian Authority is supposed to preserve, and to which they are supposed to provide access for Israelis.
The greatest crime of all -- an antiquities crime of historic proportions -- has been committed over recent years by the Palestinian Wakf on the Temple Mount. In 1999, the Wakf dug out hundreds of truckloads of dirt from caverns known as Solomon’s Stables beneath the upper plaza (more than 1,600 square meters in area and 15 meters deep) without any archaeological supervision or records. Thousands of tons of earth rich in archaeological remains, from all periods of the Temple Mount, were haphazardly dumped into the Kidron Valley and the city garbage dump at El-Azaria. The Wakf also destroyed stonework done by Jewish artisans 2,000 years ago in the underground “double passageway.”
Thousands of years of layered history -- Jewish history, of course -- were gouged out the ground with heavy machinery and shoveled out of sight. UNESCO didn’t even burp.
Israeli archaeological students are still sifting through this precious rubble, and have found numerous antiquities from the First and Second Temple periods, including stone weights for weighing silver, and a First Temple period bulla (seal impression) containing ancient Hebrew writing which may have belonged to a well-known family of priests mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah. Other findings are from the late period of the Kings of Judea (7th and 8th centuries BCE), including about 1,000 ancient coins, jewelry made of various materials, stone and glass squares from floor and wall mosaics, and many other items.
UNESCO is silent, of course.