If you wondered what those millions of shekels were buying at Tel Shiloh — the massive funding, both public and private, being thrown at the site, as detailed in my previous (2012) post on this topic — the disturbing answer is becoming ever clearer.
The people at Emek Shaveh, who, among other things, serve as watchdogs over the political abuse of archaeology in Israel-Palestine, have just issued a brief update on the site. It is viewable on-line HERE. It says in part:
The proposed plan (No. 205/15/Yesha) is an initiative of the Binyamin Regional Council and is focused on tourism development for the site and its surroundings. The development includes the top of the archaeological tel, its slopes and the area around it, a perimeter of over 300 dunams [75 acres]. The plan proposes to build 11,000 sq. meters, including an amphitheatre (up to 960 sq. m), an events hall (up to 1,000 sq. m), commercial and tourism centers (about 3,000 sq. m), a motel (up to 4,800 sq. m), and parking lots for 5,000 visitors. […]
A plan of this magnitude is almost unheard of in Israeli archaeological sites, let alone in the West Bank. In most instances construction in archaeological parks is in the order of several hundred meters for the building of a souvenir shop, a kiosk and an office. In Tel Shiloh some of the proposed buildings lack precedence in archaeological parks. For instance, there are no cases where the authorities build hotels, an amphitheater, such large commercial areas, a petting zoo (300 sq. m), a factory and more.
Emek Shaveh also has a longer, 12-page report on Tel Shilo containing much more background. It came out in January 2014 and is found on-line HERE. One very interesting passage deals with the response of the settler-managers of the site to the interest Christians are showing in their place (NOTE: Israelis say/write “evangelists” when they mean “evangelicals”):
An additional group that considers Tel Shiloh to be a site with a special religious significance is devout Christians, usually Evangelists, from the United States, Europe and Korea. For example, in 2009, some 30,000 people visited Tel Shiloh, 60% of them Christian Evangelists. In 2011, rabbis of the locality opposed the participation of Evangelist volunteers at the archaeological excavations taking place there, claiming that they viewed participation in the excavations as an act of worship, and there was a fear of blurring the boundaries between Christianity and Judaism, “which could affect the weaker layers in the settlement.”
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has also reported on the situation in recent weeks. Their article, which quotes Israeli archaeologist Yoni Mizrahi of Emek Shaveh, is found on-line HERE (you will have to register — free — for access to the article).
All of the issues highlighted in Emek Shaveh’s recent offerings are the same things that have long given me heartburn about Tel Shiloh under its present auspices, as an expression of the 47-year-old Occupation juggernaut and a projection of Israeli-nationalist-settler designs on the occupied lands. I will not re-hash or belabor the issues. Let he who has ears to hear…
UPDATE: OCT 2015
Here’s a report on two petitions related to Tel Shiloh brought by the Emek Shaveh organization and currently before Israel’s High Court of Justice. They challenge both the settler’s management of the archaeological site and the construction of the proposed massive tourism complex. To read the report, click HERE.