HCJ 2587/16 Anata Village Council Head v. IDF Commander in the West Bank

Petition Description: In 1992, the Civil Administration decided to add the archaeological site Tel Almit (known as Khirbet Almit) to the area of jurisdiction of the Israeli settlement of Anatot, also known as Almon, taking it away from the Palestinian village of Anata.

Tel Almit was the original location of the village of Anata; it was was inhabited continuously since the Middle Bronze Age until it was destroyed in the mid-19th century by the Egyptian ruler Mohammed Pasha. Residents of Anata were forced to flee to the village’s current location, just a few hundred of meters from the original site. An archaeological survey conducted in 1993 found that the site is a multi-layered tel and most of its findings date back to the Roman/Hellenistic period, as well as to the Byzantine, Persian, Middle Ages and Ottoman periods. There are also relics from the Iron and Bronze Ages. An ancient tomb was also discovered on the premises, and is believed to be the burial site of Anata’s founder, and is of spiritual and religious importance to the residents. Documents from British rule indicate that the site was part of Anata. British authorities declared it an archaeological site in 1944.

When the settlement of Anatot’s area of jurisdiction was determined, the archeological site was artificially and deliberately included. Because according to the military commander’s order Palestinians are barred from entering Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the village residents were prevented from accessing the archaeological site, and reaching the sheikh’s tomb involved confrontations with settlers.

The Israeli citizens who currently manage the site occasionally offer tours in which they emphasize the approximated Jewish history of the site – in an effort to link it to the Biblical city Almit – while omitting any other history.

In January 2016, the residents of Anata – with the assistance of Emek Shaveh and Yesh Din – demanded the Civil Administration remove the archaeological site from the settlement’s area of jurisdiction. After over two months – in which no response was provided in violation of the law, which requires a response to be provided within 45 days – the residents were forced to petition the High Court of Justice.

The petition underscored the military commander’s obligation to defend cultural property in territories held under military occupation, an obligation anchored in the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. This obligation was recognized by High Court rulings as binding according to customary law. Transferring the petitioners’ land to the settlement, the petition noted, constitutes “a de facto expropriation of their rights to this land, which has become, for all intents and purposes, part of the settlement.”

In September 2016, the State Attorney updated the Court that the settlement’s area of jurisdiction was changed to exclude the land on which the site is located on, in order to allow for the residents of the Palestinian villages to return.

Petition Status: Following the change in jurisdiction, the petition was deleted