A series of signs describe the historical significance of the landscape, as well as that of a handful of ancient buildings, in terms of their Biblical, Roman, Hellenic and Ottoman pasts. Few, if any, visitors take notice of the stone blocks that litter sections of the park.Now then, that name Emmaus, it should resonate with some people, Christians in particular. There is a housing charity called Emmaus and it is named after the village that the gospels of Luke and Mark say that Jesus first went to after the resurrection. That makes it a very important place in Christian theology. A quick google search of the word Emmaus yields 3,030,000, none of which on the first page deal with the ethnic cleansing and cover-up whereas search Emmaus "ethnic cleansing" you get 1,360.
But Eitan Bronstein, director of Zochrot (Remembering), is committed to educating Israelis and foreign visitors about the park’s hidden past – its Palestinian history.
“In fact, though you would never realise it, none of this park is even in Israel,” he told a group of 40 Italians on a guided tour this past weekend. “This is part of the West Bank captured by Israel during the 1967 war. But the presence of Palestinians here – and their expulsion – is entirely missing from the signs.”
Zochrot also seeks to remind Israelis of the Nakba, the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during Israel’s creation in 1948.
Its tours are not popular with most Israelis, suggesting, he says, how far they still are from understanding the territorial compromises needed to reach the kind of peace agreement with the Palestinians currently being promoted by the new US administration.
An impressive building a short way into the park, signposted as a Roman bathhouse, is all that is recognisably left of a Palestinian village once known as Imwas, itself built on the ruins of the biblical village of Emmaus.
The act itself echoed so many that brought the State of Israel into existence but this happened in 1968 when you'd expect a lot of eyes were on Israel. But to destroy a place that features so prominently in Christian mythology. Could they have done that to Nazareth? I'm guessing they could.