A rare mosaic from the Byzantine era was vandalized this week in Khirbet Hanut, located in the Valley of Elah. Initial estimates suggest that extremist haredi elements may have been behind the act.
The mosaic, which dates back to 563 AD, was discovered during excavations in 1986. It has an inscription written by a head of a monastery that was active during the inception of Christianity.
According to an initial investigation, anonymous assailants arrived at the site and shattered the mosaic, scattering the pieces around the site.
Slogan sprayed on the nearby wall (Photo: Tomer Zacksenberg)
The culprits also sprayed a slogan on the wall nearby, reading: "The magnitude of destruction equals the magnitude of desecration."
Tomer Zacks, a tour guide who witnessed the destruction, told Ynet: "This is not the first time I witness the vandalism of antiquities by extremist haredi sects around this area. Six months ago I saw a similar act in Hirbat Madres. I think the two incidents may be connected."
Zacks added that he just saw the mosaic on Sunday, and when he came back for the second time this week he was shocked to discover that nothing was left of it. "Antiquities Authority supervisors had just finished collecting 23 bags full of the shattered pieces and told me that there is no budget to reconstruct it," he said.
"This is shocking," Zacks noted, "This mosaic survived 1,500 years. I was always scared something like this would happen because it was completely exposed, but visitors always respected the place."