(Image: Eli.berckovitz. Unfinished ruins of the Royal Palace at Tell el-Ful)
The Middle East has long been a place of upheaval. This unfinished shell of a building, which stands at one of the highest points in the region, is testament to that. Construction of the building began in 1965, intended as a summer home for King Hussein of Jordan after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The site was one of great historic importance, as its prominent hilltop location “ known as Tell el-Ful “ had long been associated with the biblical Gibeah.
Whether this association is accurate has been a topic of ongoing debate. Archaeologists have for years argued over the findings of numerous excavations. But even many of those who do question Tell el-Ful’s link to Gibeah – including Tel Aviv University’s Israel Finkelstein (pdf) – accept the area may have been inhabited at least as far back as the 7th or 8th centuries BC.
Excavations initially got underway at Tell el-Ful in 1868. Subsequent digs uncovered layer upon layer of fortifications, including a set of ancient ruins, which are understood to have been built by the biblical King Saul.
The abandoned, unfinished shell of the Royal Palace on Tell el-Ful was to be built over these ruins of Saul’s ancient residence, and the original plans were grand. Intended not only as a summer home but a place where visiting dignitaries could stay, relax, and no doubt be impressed, the three-storey structure was set to be clad with Jerusalem stone, a building material that hearkened back to the area’s ancient history.
But plans were halted just two years after construction began, when Israel seized control of the West Bank in the Six-Day War of 1967. The two-storey cement structure was little more than a skeleton then, and since that time, it’s become a haven for all manner of less-than-savoury characters.
(Image: Judae1. The view from Tell el-Ful overlooking Jerusalem)
The incomplete Royal Palace’s future on Tell el-Ful remains uncertain. Stilled owned by the ruling family of Jordan, local authorities in Jerusalem have reportedly been reluctant to allow renovations at the abandoned property atop the ancient “Gibeah of Saul”.
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