On an ancient hill dotted with 1,000-year-old olive trees, Israelis are busy excavating in search of the first palace of King David in the heart of the West Bank.
The Jewish settlers who started the dig with the help of Israel’s Antiquities Authority say they want to turn it into an archaeological park to celebrate its historical significance.
But for Palestinians who hope the West Bank will someday form part of a Palestinian state, the move is a grab not only for land but also for their past – a ploy to cut them out of history and away from land they say is rightfully theirs.
The Bible says David, the second king of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah, first ruled in Hebron before conquering Jerusalem to the north.
Most countries consider the settlements Israel has built on land captured in the 1967 Middle East war as illegal, and Palestinians fear the enclaves will deny them a viable state made up of East Jerusulem, the West Bank and Gaza.
Shuaib al-Tamimi, a 22-year-old Palestinian watching the excavation from behind a new chain-link fence around the site next to his family home, voiced his contempt for the plan.
“Of course there are antiquities here, Roman antiquities. To say Solomon’s palace or whatever was here is a conspiracy and a big lie,” he said. “They come and plant the stones here, just to serve their own interests and take away our rights.”