The entire saga of preserving and showcasing ancient Sebastia unfolds like a comedy of errors which could only occur in the Wild West Bank. Israel controls the park containing the ancient finds, which is in Area C, but does nothing with it. The Palestinians say they want to control it, but lack the resources to develop it. And while both sides lay claim to the site as their exclusive cultural heritage, it lies neglected, underdeveloped, unexcavated.
The PA’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities brochure avoids any mention of Israel or a Jewish connection to the site. It notes that Sebastia was “an important administrative and political regional capital during the Iron Age II and III” and was “a major urban center during the Hellenistic period,” but makes no reference to the Israelite Kingdom or the Hasmoneans.
A Palestinian description of Sebastia in a bid to have it listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site goes to even greater lengths to omit references to the city’s Jewish history, referring to it as the former “capital of the northern kingdom during the Iron Age II,” and alluding to Jewish figures such as Omri and John Hyrcanus without explanation.
On the other hand, the Nature and Parks Authority’s site makes no reference whatsoever to the village, home to 3,000 Palestinians, in which the church-turned-mosque is located, to the Church of St. John the Baptist located in the ruins, or to the former Crusader presence in Sebastia.
Monday, August 24, 2015
ARCHAEOLOGICAL POLITICS: At ancient Israel’s capital, politics and neglect squelch historical resonance. For half a century, while quibbling over whose heritage it is, Israel and the Palestinians have both ignored a historical gem at Sebastia (Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel). Excerpts: