Bulldozing Palestinian history on Israel’s southern hills 24Jun13 June 24, 2013

Haaretz    -     22 June 2013

3051525418-1The remains of the Palestinian village of Al-Dawayima, in the Lachish region, about 15 kilometers southeast of Kiryat Gat, are being erased forever. Bulldozers are leveling the hills on which the village was located and preparing the ground for the establishment of a new settlement, to be inhabited by evacuees of the Gaza Strip settlements.

In the course of the work, the site’s long history of habitation is being uncovered, a history which came to a temporary end when Israel Defense Forces soldiers perpetrated a massacre in the village in October 1948, during the War of Independence. The Antiquities Authority is now carrying out a rescue dig at the site and plans to preserve it, in part. However, most of the ancient human heritage will not survive the earthworks.

After the 1948 war, the Israeli authorities demolished the village of Al-Dawayima. During the course of its conquest, one of the worst massacres of the war was carried out: Dozens of villagers, among them women and children, were shot to death by soldiers taking part in the village’s capture. There are also testimonies of rape. The cooperative village of Amatzia was established on part of the village’s land. Now a new village, called Karmei Katif ‏(resonant of Gush Katif, the former settlement bloc in the Gaza Strip‏), is to be built on the land on which the center of the village stood.

Despite the demolition, remnants of some of the structures of Al-Dawayima were uncovered during the work now being carried out. In addition, a multilayered world was discovered, encompassing the Bronze Age ‏(from 3300 B.C.E.‏), the Iron Age, the Persian and Hellenistic periods, and all the way to the Ottoman era. In one layer of the ground, Arabs lived above a site previously inhabited by Jews, and soon Jews will live above the site populated by Arabs.

“We will preserve an olive press, a columbarium cave [caves used for storage], a burrow used as a hiding place, and a villa from the Second Temple era which belonged to a Jewish estate owner,” says Dr. Yigal Yisrael, the chief archaeologist of the Antiquities Authority’s southern district. “We were able to cancel one of the planned homes in the new settlement and to get a commercial structure moved in order to preserve some of the [ancient] sites,” he added. A few columbarium caves have already been demolished to allow for construction to continue.

Also to be preserved are mikvehs ‏(Jewish ritual purification baths‏) and deep cisterns, as well as part of the center of Al-Dawayima. The excavations revealed that the structures in the village were completely empty, unlike the sites from the other periods. Possibly the villagers who left took everything with them, or others came later and pillaged the homes.

The head of Karmei Katif, Yoav Barak, says the residents are in favor of the preservation of archaeological finds, which can be turned into tourist sites − even though this is delaying their move to the village. As for the possibility of documenting the Palestinian village within the framework of the sites designated for preservation, Barak says, “I am not familiar with the facts of what happened there. If it is true, and if it was indeed a traumatic event, that should be considered.”

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