A Palestinian Anglican priest has denounced Hamas for bulldozing the remains of a 1500 year old church uncovered during construction work last month.
A Palestinian Anglican priest has denounced Hamas for bulldozing the remains of a 1500 year old church uncovered during construction work last month. On 4 April 2016 the Palestinian Authority’s news agency, WAFA, reported a Byzantine era church was uncovered during construction in Palestine Square. The PA’s general director for the Protection of Monuments at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, Saleh Tawafsh told WAFA laborers had uncovered a 2000 sq meter church finding walls, columns and carvings. Under directions from Hamas authorities, however, the construction workers “attacked the site with heavy drilling machines which led to the destruction of the remains,” Tawafsh said. While part of the Palestinian territories, the Gaza strip is under the control of Hamas while the West Bank is held by the Palestinian Authority. Tawafsh accused Hamas of cultural vandalism for destroying the remains. The rector of St Philip’s Episcopal Church in Nablus, on the West Bank, the Rev. Ibrahim Nairouz accused Hamas of attempting to obliterate the Christian history of Palestine. In a public letter to PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Minister of Antiquities and Tourism Rula Maa’yaa, Fr. Nairouz asked if Hamas had “found the remains of a mosque or synagogue or any other ancient structure, would they have dealt with them in the same manner? Or are they doing this because it’s an ancient church?” He added that it was “obvious that Christian legacy and human beings are being targeted in our region.” Nor was Hamas the sole culprit in obliterating Christian history in Palestine, Fr. Nairouz said, denouncing recent decisions by the PA to rename historic Christian and Jewish sites in Nablus with Muslim names. In light of the prime minister’s silence over the demolition, Fr. Nairouz said he has decided to boycott an official tour of Bethlehem and Hebron by Hamdallah. “Your companionship is priceless,” he wrote. “But with national affection, I have decided not to participate in the tour to protest the destruction of the remains of the church in Gaza City. And I haven’t heard any official or public or private protest against this destruction.”