The Neglect of Samaria

Visitors to Samaria are few since the Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority closed down daily operations. It is truly sad that most Israelis and foreign tourists can’t (or won’t) visit the ancient capital of the northern kingdom, home to Jehu and Jeroboam, Ahab and Jezebel. The history is of great significance and the views are terrific.

From The Times of Israel, by Ilan Ben Zion:

The manager of the Palestinian Authority’s Interpretation Center at the Sebastia archaeological site handed over a brochure; his colleague, roused from slumber, hastily pulled his pants on. Pointing to a small screening room where visitors would see a movie about the site, he contradicted himself with absolute confidence: “There’s a film — but there’s no film.”
The PA built the facility two years ago to inform visitors about the ancient city of Sebastia after Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority closed down its day-to-day operations at the site. But besides a pamphlet and some hard candies, the Interpretation Center has little to offer. The brand-new plush chairs in the 40-seat theater meant to show were still in their plastic covers. (The PA didn’t respond to inquiries about the cost of the center; the United Nations Millennium Development Fund, a co-funder, donated $132,000.)
“You can learn the history of the whole region (by) staying here because all the powers that crossed the region since the time of the Egyptians were passing through,” Carla Benelli, an art historian working in Sebastia, told AP a few years ago. Sebastia’s tel features remains from 10 different periods, from the Iron Age to modern times. “From this point of view, it’s really very important,”
The entire saga of preserving and showcasing ancient Sebastia unfolds like a comedy of errors which could only occur in the Wild West Bank. Israel controls the park containing the ancient finds, which is in Area C, but does nothing with it. The Palestinians say they want to control it, but lack the resources to develop it. And while both sides lay claim to the site as their exclusive cultural heritage, it lies neglected, underdeveloped, unexcavated.

The full story is here. We have more photos and descriptions here.

Samaria from west, tb050106488
Samaria from the west
Photo from Samaria and the Center

2 thoughts on “The Neglect of Samaria

  1. My wife and I tried to gain access to the site from the Israeli side in March. After driving from Jerusalem and turning left on the Israeli road at Nabulus, we came to an Israeli security gate. We told the guard that we wanted to visit the park thinking it was still open as an Israeli national park. He told us "it was very dangerous and we would need a military escort." So, what the heck, I asked him for an escort. He radioed someone and then told us the answer was "no". At that point, we gave up. Very disappointing. Since that time I have read accounts of several people who went to Samaria. Not exactly clear on how they did it. Since I had an Israeli rental car I could not take it into any West Bank areas. So Samaria/Sebaste is on our list for our next trip.

  2. If you trust your Arab hosts you can visit coming from Arab held areas
    I have a female acquaintance who goes regularly
    For an Israeli it is illegal, as often they have been murdered

    On the major Jewish holidays there are now regular visits from 9am-2pm, with activities, and the army is out in full force.

    I went twice last Passover. Once with my wife and grandchildren, who rode a camel for the first time. I regularly buy wares form a couple that make pottery, including with Palestinian nationalistic symbols, like the whole country as Palestine. I do not buy coins and antiquities from the man who walks around innocently with a donkey, and stops each Jewish group to offer them.

    The second time, guiding a family, as the station wagon ful of adults and children turned the corner down the hill from the parking lot, a 20 year old Arab came into the street above us and threw stones full force at us, damaging the vehicle, but thank God not hurting anyone.

    You cannot expect the Israeli government to be present under such conditions.

    Ariel University has plans or perhaps has begun to renew the excavations.

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