Modi'in Ilit Mayor: Secular Israelis Unwelcome at Our Historic Sites

An archeological site, Khirbet Bad-Issa, in the West Bank city will only open to Haredi visitors.

An archaeological site in the heart of the ultra-Orthodox West Bank city of Modi'in Ilit will be open only to Haredi visitors, says the city's mayor.

The government is currently in the process of developing the site, which is believed to have been an agricultural village from the Second Temple period. It is now known as Khirbet Bad-Issa.

In a statement last week to the Haredi newspaper Yated Neeman, Mayor Yaakov Gutterman of the Degel Hatorah party said: "The site will operate according to the doctrines of our forefathers, according to the Jewish historical sources presented by the Bible, the Gemara and ancient Jewish sages only. The site will be open only to the ultra-Orthodox public, which will keep it a proper place for them to visit and connect to their Jewish roots, without the distortions and disruptions of other places, where there is fear of hearing false opinions."

The site was first discovered in 1994, during a salvage dig by the archaeology department of the Civil Administration - an excavation intended to save buried artifacts from destruction. Modi'in Ilit's Haredi community originally protested the excavation because they claimed it desecrated graves. In fact, an inspector who once went to the site to enforce an order to cease construction reported being stoned and cursed.

The excavation persisted, however, and eventually revealed a farming village from the Second Temple period. In the center was a synagogue, which has since been partially restored. Also uncovered in the excavations was a winepress, a ritual bath, homes and large public and private buildings. A collection of 145 Roman coins from the first century C.E. was also found.

The site was largely deserted following that excavation. Then, in May 2011, the cabinet decided to invest in a number of heritage sites on both sides of the Green Line, including in Modi'in Ilit. Khirbet Bad-Issa was designated "a heritage site for the Haredi public." The government contributed NIS 3 million to develop the ancient village, with another NIS 1 million coming from other sources. According to Yated Neeman, the Civil Administration agreed to be that source.

"Even in the cabinet decision it was written that the Haredi public will decide the character of the place, and that all the messages and the historic information will be according to the ancient sages only," Gutterman told the newspaper.

The archaeological site Modi'in Ilit.
Gil Cohen Magen