Palestinians applauded the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee’s decision to inscribe the pre-historic site of “Tell es-Sultan/Old Jericho” on the World Heritage List.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said the decision to inscribe Tell es-Sultan is “a matter of great importance and evidence of the authenticity and history of the Palestinian people,” assuring that the Palestinian authorities would “continue to preserve this unique site for all humanity.”
Abbas, on behalf of the Palestinian state and people, thanked Saudi Arabia led by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, king Salman bin Abdulaziz, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for hosting the committee, as well as the committee members, the UNESCO’s executive board, and all the member states that made the enlisting happen.
The UNESCO took the decision to inscribe “Tell es-Sultan/formerly Jericho” as a World Heritage at its 45th world heritage committee meeting held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Rula Maayah stated that Palestine has now five sites on the UNESCOS’s World Heritage list including “Tell es-Sultan”: Jerusalem (the old city and its walls), Bethlehem (the birthplace of Jesus including the Church of the Nativity and the pilgrimage route), the old town of Hebron, and the “cultural landscape” of the village of Battir south of Jerusalem.
The minister said the significance of this decision stems from acknowledging that the site is an authentic part of the diverse Palestinian heritage, and enjoys an exceptional human value as the oldest fortified city in the world.
“Tell es-Sultan represents the first successful example of permanent human settlements, and the oldest agricultural town in the world that was built in the modern Stone Age, 10,000 years ago, in the lowest spot on Earth (250 meters below sea level), near the Ein Sultan spring. It encouraged humans to move to a stable life that relied on the domestication of plants and animals, construction, pottery making, and developed social, economic, and religious systems, she noted.
The site is one of the most important archaeological sites in Palestine, it was the cornerstone of Jericho, and the beginning of human life during the Natufian period before the emergence of plants, about 10,500 years ago.
“Tell es-Sultan” is located in the lower part of the Jordan Valley, 10 kilometers north of the Dead Sea, two kilometers north of Jericho’s center, and 250 meters below sea level, making old Jericho the lowest and oldest city in the world.
It features 29 layers of ancient civilizations and prominent constructions, including the circular building known as “The Jericho Tower”, a unique architectural design boasting an internal stone staircase and a three-meter-wide corridor. The city is surrounded by a wall and a three-meter-deep trench.
Palestinians in Jericho celebrated the decision with sports events, cavalry marches, musical performances, and a laser show at “Tell es-Sultan”.
“It’s a historic day and a political and cultural triumph for the Palestinians that comes after a campaign of falsifications led by the Israeli government to hinder the site’s addition to the World Heritage List,” said Mayor of Jericho, Abdul Karim Sedir.
Minister of Agriculture Riad Attari said this historical moment highlights the victory of the Palestinian right.