Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Yet Another Sad Day in Sabastiya!

Sabastiya - "Before..."

Regular readers of this blog already know I have a soft spot for Sabastiya – a beautiful little town in the northern West Bank near which is sited a once world-famous (now sadly overlooked due to the Occupation) archeological site dating back to Roman times.  In previous postings, I’ve shared stories ranging from settlers dumping raw sewage on agricultural land to the deliberate burning of crops and olive trees, and lauded the courage and endurance of the townspeople. (See “Sabastiya, settlers and sewage,” March 26, 2013; “Sabastiya: A Happy Ending,” April 7, 2013; and “A(nother) Sad Story from Sabastiya,” June 30, 2013).

and "...After" (photo by Ahmad Kayed)
Today comes news of yet another attack on this special place - the IDF’s demolition of two structures located adjacent to the parking lot for the archeological site.  This first came to my attention in a Facebook post from Ahmad Kayed, a Palestinian friend who I first met when my EA team visited Sabastiya at the time of the sewage dumping.  Later, a news story gave me more details (https://www.facebook.com/imemcnews/?fref=nf&pnref=story&hc_location=ufi) 

A first-century church in the archeological site
Since my first visit to Sabastiya in 2013, I have returned there every time I visited Palestine.  I have brought other people there; have eaten in the now-destroyed restaurant and made purchases in the demolished shop.  I have also walked among the ruins and enjoyed the tranquility of this beautiful site.  So the news of these demolitions has brought the Occupation home in a personal, visceral way!  First I cried then I got angry!

Sabastiya should be recognized as the international treasure that it is.  It should be given World Heritage Site status, preserved and protected.  Instead, the Israeli government won’t even let the locals clean up trash that accumulates on the site from the few visitors it gets these days (As one can imagine, visits are down considerably from Sabastiya's peak as the Middle East’s most visited tourist destination in the early 60s!).  The IDF has encroached on the archeological site, destroying artifacts in a way that would bring jail time to anyone who did the same thing in Israel proper.  They will not allow international archeologists onto the site, either to preserve it or to establish it as a World Heritage site. 

An EA talks to a villager (photo by Ahmad Kayed)
And now this – deliberately destroying buildings and causing harm.  And for what?  Because they can!  Because this is Area C – in the full control of the Israeli military (as is well over half of Palestine!) – and destroying Palestinian property is the first step in “colonizing” the land – as they have already done in so many places and continue to do because nobody will stop them!

So I’m sad, and I’m angry, and I don’t know what else to do but to tell as many people about this as I can – and to hope someone is listening!!

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