An Israeli UNESCO World Heritage Site was vandalized with graffiti this past week. The inscriptions spray-painted at Bet She'arim National Park in northern Israel included phrases like "Noah" and "Zion our holy rabbi."
"We saw one graffiti spray-painted on the two gates, and another one on the tomb of Judah ha-Nasi, and there were traces of color on the tomb itself," said Lior, a hiker who spoke to Haaretz after visiting Beet She'arim on Friday.
"It's discouraging, a feeling that anyone can do what they want," he added. "UNESCO or not, the sense that everything is allowed. Nothing is protected. There is nothing sacred." According to him, the graffiti was already cleaned up while he was there.
The garden is a few minutes' drive from the Bedouin community of Manshiya Zabda, where a hate crime occurred last Wednesday night. Hateful graffiti was sprayed in the village and the tires of dozens of cars were slashed.
The settlement of Bet She'arim was an important Jewish center during the Second Temple period, and it was there where Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi is said to have edited the Mishnah, the first major written collection of the Jewish oral traditions The site includes an ancient synagogue, a basilica (public building), an olive press and a necropolis – 30 burial systems in various architectural styles.
The site is considered one of the largest surviving Jewish cemeteries of ancient times, and Jews from Israel and the diaspora sought to be buried there, near the grave of Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi. However, there are archaeologists who claim that the tomb of Judah ha-Nasi is in Zippori and not in Beit Shearim.
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One of the initiators of the excavations at the site in 1936 is Alexander Zeid, the Hebrew guard who lived in the hills of Sheikh Avrick, near Bet She'arim. In July 2015, the site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.