Palestinians say Israel stole ancient baptismal font from Bethlehem town

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Palestinians from a Bethlehem-area town are accusing Israeli forces of illegally seizing an ancient artifact from their town in the predawn hours of Monday morning. 

The incident took place in the southern occupied West Bank town of Tuqu, which is said to be the birthplace of the biblical prophet Amos, and is home to a number of Byzantine-era archaeological sites. 

Video footage, purportedly taken by residents of Tuqu, shows Israeli military forces escorting a large flatbed truck out of the village in the middle of the night. 

On the bed of the truck is a massive stone, alleged to be a baptismal font that dates back to the sixth century A.D., that was once part of an ancient church in the village. 

The unique octagonal shape of the stone, which has been widely studied by Palestinian cultural organizations, is easily identifiable in the video. 

The baptismal font is reported to be one of three rare basins of its kind. The other two were found in the Church of Nativity, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, and the Church of Beit Jibrin, an ancient Palestinian village near Hebron that was forcibly depopulated in 1948. 

According to Wafa news agency, the same baptismal font was stolen by “unauthorized dealers” back in 2000, before being returned by Palestinian authorities to Tuqu in 2002. 

PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi tweeted the video of the seizure, calling it “typical.”

“Israel steals our land & resources, plunders our archeological/historical sites, appropriates our cultural heritage & seeks to eradicate all evidence of our identity & continuity in our ancestral homeland–a settler-colonial attempt at erasing evidence of the indigenous,” she said. 

Local news agencies reported that just days before the seizure of the baptismal font, Israeli forces seized 700 dunams of Palestinian land around the Herodion Mountain south of Bethlehem, allegedly part of Israel’s plans to construct a museum in the area. 

On social media, Palestinians speculated that the theft of the baptismal stone could be connected to the land seizure around Mount Herodion, which is alleged to be the burial place of King Herod. 

Israel has been accused of stealing ancient Palestinian artifacts in the past, most recently in 2018, when a number of ancient artifacts originating in the West Bank were displayed at an Israeli art exhibit in Jerusalem. 

International law prohibits an occupying power from assuming ownership of antiquities or transferring artifacts out of the territory it occupies. 

Emek Shaveh, an Israeli NGO “working to defend cultural heritage rights,” has long criticized Israel for its archaeological practices in the occupied West Bank. 

Of Israel’s policies regarding artifacts and archaeological sites, the group has said: “Israel continues to use its position as the administrator of archaeological sites in the West Bank as a means to deepen its control over West Bank land, to expand the settlement enterprise, and extend the policy of dispossession of Palestinians from their lands and cultural assets. Although the takeover of land through archaeology is not the main method of achieving Israeli control over land, it is significant because of its symbolic aspects and impact on public awareness.”

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The Palestine Liberation Organization Press Release FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 20, 2020 Dr. Ashrawi: Israeli theft of historical baptismal font is an act of colonial plunder “Israel’s theft of a baptismal font dating back to the Byzantine era from Bethlehem overnight is an abominable act of thuggery and cultural appropriation.  A hallmark of Israel’s system of colonial occupation and oppression has been its disdainful attempts to erase Palestinian presence, culture and heritage, including the illegal… Read more » Palestine News Network, July 19/20 “Palestine to sue American tech giants Google, Apple over deletion from world maps” “Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Riyad al-Maliki says he is going to lodge a case against American technology companies Google and Apple over their deletion of Palestine from online world maps. “Speaking in an exclusive interview with Lebanon-based and Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network on Friday, Maliki said he was “looking into legal procedure… Read more »

(cont’d) “The besieged Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank are mentioned and marked on Google maps, but since Tuesday, the US-based multinational technology company has removed the name of Palestine from all of its maps, simply considering the two regions as parts of Israel. “The highly provocative move has enraged Palestinians and social media activists supporting the cause of Palestine, and prompted them to support the two hashtags of #FreePalestine and #standwithpalestine on Twitter… Read more »

“IDF returns 5th century stolen baptismal font to original site in Tekoa”

Yep, that is very plausible, knowing their record of stealing lands, olive trees, water, even soil.
They are known to destroy Mosques and Churches in Israel.
They also do not have any decency, and do not respect other religions in the region.
The idiotic Evangelicals still believe these people will welcome Jesus Christ.