(Beit El Heritage Foundation/Facebook)
Jacob's Rock

Dr. Petra Heldt urges immediate action to safeguard holy sites like Joshua’s Altar, emphasizing the need for a lasting solution.

By Sveta Listratov, TPS

In response to the recent vandalization of Joshua’s Altar on Mount Ebal, a Christian historian called on Israel to take stronger measures to protect the holy site.

“A permanent Jewish presence established on and around Mount Ebal will lastingly secure that holy place for Jews and Christians,” Dr. Petra Heldt, a Christian historian told the Tazpit Press Service. “It is immediately necessary that the site should get proper protection.”

Israeli activists from the Forum for the Struggle for Every Dunam reported on Thursday that local Palestinians burned tires at the site outside Shechem (Nablus) in Samaria, spray-painted Arabic graffiti, and raised a Palestinian flag on the altar.

The holy site is under the joint control of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Heldt — who teaches history and Jewish-Christian relations in the Middle East at the Jerusalem University College — stressed that frequently vandalized holy sites such as Joshua’s Altar, Tel Aroma and Mount Gerizim are significant to both Jews and Christians.

“It is a pattern that shows, consistently, that there is a wish to eliminate the existence of the Jewish and Christian history in Israel, the historic land of the Jewish people. This holy place must be secured, like other holy places in Israel, from Palestinian vandalism,” she told TPS.

Mt. Ebal and the adjacent Mt. Gerizim was where the Israelites gathered for a declaration of blessings and curses upon entering the land, as described in Deuteronomy and the Book of Joshua. The prophet Joshua built an altar on the site after the Battle of Ai, Dr. Heldt noted.

The altar was discovered in 1980 by Professor Adam Zertal of Haifa University who identified it through whitewashed stones and a lead amulet bearing a cryptic inscription dating back to 1400 BC, reaffirming biblical tales. The Hebrew script, deciphered by the University of Prague, echoed the Biblical blessings and curses.

In September, TPS reported that the Palestinian Authority was illegally constructing a new neighborhood on Mount Ebal that would erase the Jewish heritage site.

An inspector from the Samaria Regional Council’s Lands Department discovered at the time that the PA was paving roads as part of a project for 32 housing units on the ruins of the historic site.

Meanwhile, at the Biblical site of Tel Aroma, Palestinians continue building a “martyrs mosque” atop the remains of a Hasmonean palace.