The Civil Administration in the West Bank has ruled that Tel Shiloh, an archaeological site inside the Shiloh settlement, must be open to Palestinian visitors. And while the Supreme Planning Council of Judea and Samaria found that construction done at the site by the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council was illegal, it gave retroactive approval as well as approving future building plans.
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A massive development plan for the site includes the construction of an amphitheater, a 60-room hotel, a large parking lot and commercial center and shops. Objections were filed by residents from adjacent Palestinian villages, who claimed it would encroach on their lands, and by the archaeological advocacy organization Emek Shaveh, which claimed it would damage the site and its antiquities, as well as violating international law and agreements with the Palestinians on preserving the area’s archaeological heritage.
The council criticized the illegal construction but approved it on the grounds that it conformed with the plan for the site.
At the same time, the zoning panel agreed that the site should be made accessible to all. It cited the “cultural, religious, historic and archaeological significance” of the ancient site and the duty of the military commander in the area to make these places accessible.
Yoni Mizrahi, an archaeologist with Emek Shaveh, said the decision could have implications for other archaeological sites in the West Bank, like the site of ancient Sussia: “The council recognized that the Palestinian residents have a part in the archaeological heritage of these areas and have the right to visit them.”