The Beit She’arim National Park in the north of Israel has been officially added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The approval marks a successful end to a campaign that began in 2002, when Israel first proposed the ancient necropolis for World Heritage status.

The vote took place at the 39th UNESCO World Heritage Conference in Germany, with 17 of the organization’s 21 member nations voting in favor.

“The Beit She’arim necropolis is sending a greeting from 1,800 years ago,” said Dr. Tsvika Tsuk, chief archaeologist for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

Carmel Shama-Cohen, Israel’s envoy to UNESCO, said that “the amazing achievement of unprecedented support while heaping compliments on the State of Israel proves that Israel, which initiates positive steps with determination and wisdom, can harvest fruit even in rocky fields like U.N. organizations.”

Located 12 miles east of Haifa in the Lower Galilee, Beit She’arim dates back to the first century BCE and was destroyed by fire in 352 CE. Known as “the Mount of Olives for the ancient Jewish world,” the necropolis contains a network of more than 30 burial caves, one of which holds the grave of Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi. The city had a second life during the Byzantine era.