Jericho’s ancient site added to UNESCO World Heritage list

Jericho’s ancient site added to UNESCO World Heritage list 02
(Photos: Twitter/X)
WEST BANKJubilant Palestinians celebrate UNESCO's decision to place the ancient settlement of Tell es-Sultan on its World Heritage list, with the UN declaring it the “oldest fortified city in the world.”اضافة اعلان

The ruins had their special status declared in September at a meeting of the UN World Heritage Committee of UNESCO in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

With fireworks, music and flags, Palestinians partied in the streets of Jericho, in the occupied West Bank, late into the night.

Sign of recognition
Though the decision by UNESCO might be just a small step, for Palestinians it represents a great leap forward on the journey to independence.

Iyad Hamdan, director general of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Jericho, told Jordan News that the decision is considered an "achievement for us Palestinians in strengthening our identity when the largest international organization with the weight of UNESCO recognizes that the oldest cities in history were in Jericho in Palestine."

Israel, which quit UNESCO in 2019, accuses the international body of being biased and of diminishing its connection to the Holy Land.

It rejected the decision to list Tell es-Sultan, with the foreign ministry describing it as a “cynical” ploy by Palestinians to politicize UNESCO.

Israel says it will work with its allies to reverse what it calls UNESCO's “distorted” decisions.

Palestinian heritage
The ancient city of Tell es-Sultan joins three other “UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Palestine”: the birthplace of Jesus including the Church of the Nativity and the pilgrimage route in Bethlehem, the cultural landscape of the village of Battir south of Jerusalem, and the old town of Hebron.

Hamdan explains that the decision “refutes the narrative of occupation by saying that we have nothing to do with this place.”

“This is not the first time there has been an Israeli refusal. Going back to the year 2013, there was strong Israeli refusal when registering the inclusion of Bethlehem, and pressure was put on UNESCO member states not to vote. The same thing happened in Battir and Hebron. The truth is that the Israeli occupation is competing with us everywhere for any archaeological site because this is a reference to the occupation and indicates that this is a site in the Palestinian city of Jericho and it is a site registered under the name of the State of Palestine, and this worries and disturbs the occupation,” said Hamdan.

Rehabilitating history
Tell es Sultan contains evidence of human activity going back more than 10,000 years. The Bronze Age settlement was founded in around 2,600BC.

Trenches, the remains of palaces, staircases, and towers from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, were found as well.

“There is a major rehabilitation project for this site funded by the Italian government to restore important parts of this site and also to establish an information center in cooperation with UNESCO and also a museum for the site to prepare it to receive more tourists,” says Hamdan.

Tourism revenue
And as global tourism starts to revive following the COVID-19 pandemic, Palestinians are also eager to cash in.

“That would be great for tourism, for people who are living here. It will bring more money into the city's economy. Tourists will come from all over the world to see it,” Palestinian tour guide Ahmad Aljaabri told Jordan News.

The modern city of Jericho is a major tourist attraction in the Palestinian territories, both because of its historical sites and proximity to the Dead Sea. In 2021, the Palestinian Authority unveiled major restorations to one of the largest mosaics in the Middle East, in a Jericho palace dating back to the 8th century.

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