Leisure and the destruction of heritage

IMG_2560My last post noted the destruction of archaeological sites by treasure hunting. But there are other ways, such as leisure activities.
In recent years two wheeled leisure activities have gained popularity in Israel: cycling and motor-cross. There are far more Israelis on bikes, riding along the roads of the countryside, the byways and cycle-ways even on hot days. Especially on Sabbath they are out in force. There are fewer motor-cross riders. But they have a disproportionate impact. They ride their bikes across the countryside without any regard to the destruction they cause. And unfortunately they find it interesting and cool to ride their motor bikes on archaeological sites. After all, archaeological sites have some nice slopes and easy obstacles, and are often not cluttered by trees.

The motor bikes make deep ruts in the surface of the archaeological sites, dislodge stone and take away the grass cover so that the soil erodes. The damage is notable. The Israel Antiquities Authority can fine for such a destruction, but has few resources to police the thousands of sites. At Tel Goded it became such a problem that they placed some boulders as barriers. But still the motor bikes came, as the above picture shows. Not only is the archaeological site further destroyed, the brutal drone of the motor also broke the quiet of the summer evening and was heard for many kilometres around.

The following picture shows motor-cross riders at Abu Hof. The scars on this archaeological site are also obvious. There seem to be a few well-known motor-cross challenges. The motor-bike riders don’t care what they destroy. They just want to prove they can do the tricky route, just want to have some fun.
There were over a hundred cyclists in the Lahav forest that Shabbat, but only a dozen motor-bikes. And yet for half an hour, they not only destroyed archaeological sites, but also made the place noisy and dusty.

I’m not one who only enjoys deserted places, nor can we demand that all archaeological sites remain free from modern intrusions, but the wanton destruction has to stop. The general carelessness of so many motor-cross riders just becomes more evident in their attitude towards others in destroying the experience of so many others.

Of course, this not only happens in Israel. Motor-cross is a threat to archaeological sites across the world. I once walked to Macetown, a historic gold-digger town in the New Zealand mountains. Not only was the walk there made uncomfortable by the many motor-cross bikes we came across, but the historic site itself was severely damaged. Remains of old buildings were used as jumps. There were the traces of wheelies on the grass outside a still-standing structure. The whole site was damaged. You can see that over the years, I have become to regard motor-cross less and less favourably. I think that the sport has to show some responsibility.

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