Destruction in the Gaza Strip

Destruction in the Gaza Strip

Archaeological sites and artifacts being lost along with lives.

The Middle East is one of the cradles of humanity.  This means that it also happens to be one of the places in the world that is packed near solid with artifacts of the past.  And, unfortunately, as modern circumstance dictates, it is a place of much conflict.  So many cities, artifacts and other pieces of history lie beneath the soil, spanning thousands of years, but human wars once again threaten the safety of these historical treasures.  This time the target is the Gaza Strip, and the main offender is Israel.

Israel and Israeli-occupied Palestine have been in perpetual conflict for decades now.  As the fighting continues, so too does the inevitable destruction of precious archaeological sites.  With more than 5000 years buried in the Gaza Strip, detailing both Palestinian and Jewish history, one would think that both parties would have a vested interest in making sure they come to no harm.

Instead, the contest for this land has damaged and destroyed everything from small artifacts to entire sites.  When whole cities are buried, it’s hard to shoot anything anywhere without hitting something of value.  The latest attack was the Israeli bombing of sites they saw as key to Palestinian resistance.  The non-human casualties consisted of a Byzantine church, a set of ancient city walls and even the offices of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities - the very people in charge of preserving the sites.

Unfortunately, the likelihood of fixing the damage done is next to none.  There’s too little money going around and too many potential projects.  In addition, the situation is made more complicated because people sometimes link the Ministry with terrorist organizations, which means they receive very little outside funding. 

Many of those digging and trying to preserve the artifacts are doing so for little or no pay.  Another major problem is Israel’s tight control over what is allowed in Gaza.  Archaeologists are unable to get much of the equipment they need to excavate properly, so they’re doing so with severely antiquated tools.

All this history left undiscovered is a horrible crime, almost as horrible as the killing that seems will never stop.  A pointless conflict is damaging the clues to both peoples’ past.  If something isn’t done quickly, all this human knowledge will be lost permanently and it will be our own faults as humans, considering only our immediate needs instead of those of future generations.