|Palestinian collector Waleed al-Aqqad in his home museum i|
n Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, April 3, 2011
(photo by REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in the Gaza Strip is waiting to finish listing the antiquities destroyed by the 51-day war on Gaza, before presenting its complaints to the Arab and international institutions such as UNESCO, the Organization of Arab Culture and other human rights associations. Mohammad Khalleh, the ministry’s representative in Gaza, told Al-Monitor that 41 historical sites have been registered so far, including a mosque, a church, a house and an ancient bath, damaged or destroyed, in addition to thousands of antiquities owned by residents. Khalleh said that the Gaza Strip's seven private museums hold around 8,000 antiquities. However, he mentioned the possibility of there being other unknown museums, since some owners do not openly promote their museums.
Khalleh said that a Palestinian antiquities law was passed to remedy the situation of private museums. “The law stipulates that the owners of private museums keep their antiquities, but they cannot be traded, because they are the state’s property. When the owner passes away, the state shall take possession of the antiquities and provide the heirs with financial compensation.” Khalleh said that the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities prepared a major project in 2010 — costing in excess of $5 million — to establish a larger museum complete with several wings to display the antiquities of private museums. Each wing would be named after the museum’s private owner. However, due to a lack of funding, the project has yet to begin. In spite of some Gaza residents' great interest in collecting antiquities, their collections still suffer from a significant lack of government action to protect them from both the Israeli occupation and thieves.