JERUSALEM, Israel – Samaria's Regional Council has, for the first time, approved a public march to historic Joshua's Altar on biblical Mt. Ebal.
The march will be held on the second day of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) next Monday, and will also include a time of dirt sifting and screening in Shavei Shomron, near the archaeologically rich site – recently embroiled in controversy – when the Palestinian Authority began to remove stones from the area in advance of paving for a planned neighborhood development.
The Palestinian actions sparked an uproar among residents and leaders of the Samaria Regional Council, who were concerned about losing evidence of Jewish history on the site, where Joshua constructed an altar to the Lord after the Israelites entered the Promised Land.
The Palestinian Authority is also pushing to have the area declared a Palestinian Heritage Site, according to Israel National News.
The Samaria council, in conjunction with the Association for Biblical Research, Dr. Scott Stripling from the United States, and archaeologist Avi Solomon, began sifting through the dirt on the site last year, and found a ring possibly worn by a woman participating in a blessing and cursing ceremony 3,200 years ago, described in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 11, vs 29-30
During that time, the Lord declared Mt. Gerazim to be a mountain of blessing and Mt. Ebal a mountain of cursing. Other artifacts were found at the site as well, including a jug and pieces of plaster, which may have covered large stones containing biblical inscriptions.
Yossi Dagan, Chairman of the Samaria Regional Council, noted, "The findings from the site of the altar are further proof of the inextricable connection between the people of Israel and its country and certainly Samaria, and proves the importance of the site for knowing our roots and the Jewish people for generations. Precisely now, in the face of the Palestinian Authority's attempt to destroy Joshua's altar, the people of Israel will be there with the Israeli flag – to connect to the roots and values."
Dagan added, "I call on the public to come and discover the history of the people of Israel with their own hands. To walk with us to the ancient Altar of Joshua, a unique relic of the settlement period and the return of the people of Israel to their land, and of course enjoy the multitude of heritage sites, tourism, nature, wineries, and springs all over Samaria."
Last March Israeli officials cautioned that road construction carried out by Palestinians had damaged the ancient town of Sebastia, once the capital of the Kingdom of Israel nearly 3,000 years ago.
This time, Jewish residents in the surrounding West Bank towns say they're determined to make a public effort to preserve the biblical sites.