The Gathering at the President’s House
The honorable President of the State of Israel, Mr. Moshe Katzav and his wife Mrs. Gila Katzav, Coordinator of Activities in the Territories Major General Yosef Mashlev, head of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria Brigadier General Ilan Paz, Director General of the Antiquities Authority Mr. Shuka Dorfman, the High Priest of the Samaritans Elazar Ben Tzadka, friends and dear guests.
First I would like to thank the president who has been kind enough to dedicate this meeting of the archaeological forum to the research being carried out in Judea and Samaria and to thank the staff of the president’s house and those of the Antiquities Authority and the Archaeological Staff Officer who have worked so hard to bring this day to fruition.
President Katzav is continuing a welcome tradition of presidents, particularly President Yitzhak Ben Zvi, who have displayed deep interest in the Land of Israel’s past and have closely accompanied its archaeological and historic research.
In recent years the Archaeological Staff Officer’s unit has taken on a leading role in the archaeological research conducted in Judea and Samaria. Rather than fading away in the wake of the Oslo Accords, the unit has expanded and developed and many important discoveries have been made by the unit during the past decade.
The unit has carried out hundreds of important and highly scientific excavations. The excavations in Samaria, Nablus, Mount Grizim and Qumran were amongst the largest, longest and most important that have been conducted until now in the Land of Israel.
In the past two years the scientific activity carried out by the unit has expanded even further in the wake of the construction of the fence separating Palestine from Israel. The unit’s workers have performed dozens of salvage excavations along the route of the fence. From its inception, we have been carefully overseeing the route of the fence on a daily basis.
This scientific activity has been accomplished in addition to the unit’s ongoing inspection of antiquities and development of sites of which the piece de résistance is the extraordinary Samaritan site that will include a visitor’s center and museum, and which we hope will constitute one of the important sites in national and international tourism.
In light of the multitude of excavations and publications that have occurred of late, there was the immediate need to establish a scientific journal of the unit in cooperation with the Antiquities Authority and thus two years ago we began publication of a new series entitled JSP (Judea and Samaria Publications). So far four books have appeared in this series and there are another five that are ready for print. In 2004 a total of five books will be available: the three that have already been published and one other book that will appear at the end of the year that will comprise two volumes and will be dedicated to Flavia Neapolis – Nablus in the Roman period. Three other books dealing with the Samaritans, Mount Grizim and the Jewish and Edomite settlement in the southern Hebron Highlands will be published in 2005. We hope to publish twenty volumes in this series by the year 2010.
The importance of the scientific excavations and publication of the material from Judea and Samaria has increased and gathered momentum during this period, in spite of the events occurring in the territories of the Palestinian Authority. In the last decade all of the optimistic forecasts have been dispelled and the destruction and theft of antiquities has intensified in these regions.
This activity would never have occurred were it not for the assistance provided by many individuals and groups. First the coordination of the activities in the territories headed by Major General Mishlev, the Civil Authority for so many years and especially the head of the Civil Authority Brigadier General Ilan Paz and his assistant Colonel Nir Peres who help to further the unit’s activities and the Antiquities Authority and its director Mr. Shuka Dorfman that are helping us on a daily basis and of course the Ministry of Education and Culture, of which we are a part. Finally a special thanks to the unit’s staff who bear the brunt of the harsh conditions in armored vehicles and with close army protection, that continue to survey, excavate and study the regions of this difficult terrain and perform their work in an exemplary manner that demands our respect.
My thanks to all of you.
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