News website Al-Jazeera.net reported yesterday that the Jerusalem Municipality has deliberately distorted facts relating to Christian remains unearthed by the Israeli Antiquities Authority in the region. The artefacts, dating from the Byzantine period, were discovered during excavation in the Ain Kareem area south of Jerusalem. Al-Jazeera has reported clear signs of collusion between the Jerusalem Municipality and the Israeli Ministry of Tourism to conceal remains of Christian ruins in the area in the hopes of establishing commercial construction projects on the site.
According to prominent Palestinian lawyer Qais Nasser, these new findings may just be the tip of the iceberg. The entire region could potentially house a veritable plethora of Christian archeological remains. Israeli officials, says Nasser, made no effort to inform church authorities of these new discoveries.
Ain Kareem was evacuated of its Palestinian population during the “Nakba” (“Catastrophe”) in 1948. Israel began the establishment of exclusive Jewish settlements on the lands of the destroyed village in 1949, then annexing the area to the Jerusalem municipality in 1950. The village, a site of great historical significance to Palestinian Christians and Muslims alike, is the site of several historical Christian monuments. Steeped in Christian lore and history, it is the site of Mary’s spring, and the place that some believe to be the birthplace of John the Baptist. The second Caliph Umar Ibn al-Khattab passed through Ain Kareem during the period of the Islamic conquest, imbibing the village with historical significance for Muslims as well.