Conservation works at Tel Rumeida, Hebron have resumed as a final stage before opening the site as a tourist park
Excavation and conservation works have resumed at the archaeological site of Tel Rumeida, situated at the heart of Hebron. The purpose of these works, which began two days ago (May 3, 2017), is to prepare the site for tourists. The excavations at the site were conducted by Ariel University beginning in January 2014 with the aim of establishing an archaeological park that would be managed by the ‘Committee of the Jewish Community of Hebron’. The petition by Emek Shaveh and Breaking the Silence against the management of the site by the settlers nullified the agreement signed between the Civil Administration and the Committee of the Jewish Community of Hebron. The excavations ended in the summer of 2016.
Tel Rumeida is a Palestinian neighborhood at the western edge of the area under Israeli control (2H). Adjacent to the Palestinian homes is a Jewish settlement. The archaeological tel is located in the middle of the settlement. The works that began this week mainly involve conservation, creating trails, and signposting. The scope of excavation will be relatively small.
In December 2016, Eli Ben Dahan, Deputy Minister of Defense announced that he would advance the transition of the site into an archaeological park and would like to see it managed by a national entity such as the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Declaring a site as a national park is a long and complicated process, especially in a place like Hebron. We therefore assume that at this stage, the site will be made ready for visitors without appointing a certain entity to manage it. The site is currently fenced and the Committee of the Jewish Community in Hebron hold its keys. We would not be surprised if in the first stages, visitors will be arriving with a guide on behalf of the settlers, who will determine when to open the site accordingly.
As we have mentioned in the past, as far as the settlers of Hebron are concerned, rendering Tel Rumeida an archaeological park is an effective way to strengthen a settlement situated at the margins of an area under Israeli control without needing to advance housing projects for settlers. The archaeological park will make it possible to bring thousands of visitors and heighten Israeli presence at the heart of the Palestinian neighborhood. According to what we can already discern, the narrative that will be told to visitors about this site will focus mainly on the connection of the people of Israel to Hebron, even if the archaeological finds do not necessarily confirm the narrative. Studies have been unable to answer the question of whether the Jews or the Edomites lived in Hebron during the Early Roman (Second Temple) Period, although it is widely assumed that the area was part of Edom. Needless to say, as far as Emek Shaveh is concerned, the question of who lived in the city of Hebron 2,000 years ago does not infringe on the historic rights of its residents to live on the site.
For further reading: Tel Rumeida – Hebron’s Archaeological Park