The Jericho Oasis Archaeological Park
Project J.O.A.P.
Origin – The Project is the outcome of seventeen years (1997-2014) of fruitful cooperation in the field of archeology between Rome «La Sapienza» Expedition to Palestine and the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities - Department of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (MOTA-DACH), also supported by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the site of Tell es-Sultan, the ancient Jericho, one of the most renowned archaeological site of the entire Near East. The joint work of the two institutions has led to the creation of the Archaeological Park of the Jericho Oasis (JOAP), the centre of which is Tell es-Sultan. The Park includes also other 14 monumental historical and natural places, among the 103 relevant archaeological sites which are spread over the Oasis.

Setting – The Jericho Oasis, a unique ecosystem fed by a perennial source of fresh water ('Ain es-Sultan) of extraordinary flow rate, witnessed some of the milestones of the history of Humanity – from the birth of agriculture, to the invention of pottery, to the rise of the city – which date back to the earliest Prehistory, when the Jerichoan community gave birth to one of the earliest large fortified settlements of the Fertile Crescent. Even nowadays, archaeological remains which cover a time span of more than ten thousand years, are extraordinary preserved in a luxuriant setting. This environment was heavily undermined in 1948 due to the installation of a refugee village right next to the archaeological site of Tell es-Sultan. Afterwards, both during the Israeli administration, and later within the rash development of the modern city of Ariha, after the birth of the Palestinian National Authority, modern building activities have severely threatened the environmental integrity of the Oasis and its archaeological resources. For this reason, the joint efforts of Sapienza and the MOTA, like others undertaken by the Italian Cooperation at Qasr Hisham and 'Ain es-Sultan, has represented a bulwark for the defense of the archaeological and cultural Heritage and the protection of the ecosystem of the Jericho Oasis, where outstanding archaeological sites will are valorized.

Potential – Nowadays, the need to support a sustainable development based on tourism enhancement makes the Park, with its spatially distributed organization, a valuable resource to be exploited for the benefit of the local community. With its 300,000 annual visitors, Tell es-Sultan, as center of a wider network of tourist enhancement, can trigger a positive spiral that qualifies, differentiates and increases tourism, providing employment opportunities and improving the outcome.

Goals and main actors – The overall aim of the project is the enhancement of the Park as a tool for economic and cultural development to the benefit of the community of Ariha, by means of training of specialized personnel of the MOTA-DACH and the Municipality, and the job placement of young people (mainly Palestinian students from the Bir-Zeit and Jerusalem University). The beneficiaries of the project will be the executives and employees of the MOTA-DACH, the employees of the Municipality and the young students, in addition to the community of Ariha and all consumers of tourism in Jericho.

Strategy – The Project involves the creation of a Tourist Information Centre («Interpretation Centre»), which, thanks to the personnel trained during the course of the project (4 professionals: archaeologists, tourist managers, specialized workers for sites-maintenance, tourist guides), will launch tours of a number of sites for tourist groups, schools or cultural tourists. The structure of the project is such as to ensure a progressive involvement of students/participants in the undertaking of the project itself, until they will become the protagonists of the management of the Park.

Articulation and timing – The Project is organized in two years, with an articulation in activities of monthly, quarterly or semi-annually duration. During this period, nine training activities will be carried out: a first class (A1) for capacity building for the creation of itineraries for archaeologists and tour operators; and a second class (A2) for the implementation of these paths at various sites and the concomitant formation of the tourist guides. Two trainings on the job (B1-B2) will be used, instead, to train specialized workers for the maintenance of monuments, and archaeologists and tour operators for the evaluation of the state of preservation of monuments themselves. The set-up of the Interpretation Centre (C) will make possible, in the second year, the first cycle of the Training Course of the Park operators (D1), followed by the first class of management (F1). A second cycle (F2) will provide a further qualification of the staff of the MOTA, with a recognized degree for local tourist guides. The opening conference of the Park (G) and a final class of three months, in which the students will gradually start the everyday activities of tours, visits and other services of the JOAP, will accomplish the project.