The Antiquities Authority has failed in its last-gasp attempt to confiscate the
controversial Jehoash Tablet from Israeli collector Oded Golan.
verdict handed down on Wednesday, the three-judge appeal panel of Supreme Court
justices decided by 2-1 that the inscribed tablet must be returned to Golan, who
was acquitted last year of forging after a 10-year prosecution and
The Supreme Court ruling caps a crushing defeat for the
Antiquities Authority following the sweeping 2012 acquittal of Golan and dealer
Robert Deutsch on multiple charges of archeological forgery. Israeli prosecutors
advised by the authority had argued that although they continue to believe the
inscription is a modern forgery, the reverse of the stone had been “dressed” in
ancient times and was therefore classified as an antiquity that should belong to
the state. But the court rejected those arguments by a majority
Golan is poised to reclaim both the tablet and the more-famous
item, the James ossuary, along with dozens of pieces confiscated by the
Antiquities Authority and the Israeli Police at the time of his arrest in 2003.
Golan greeted the decision as “good news.” He says he plans to put both the
ossuary and the tablet on public display.
The latest about-turn could be
the final twist in a nail-biting finale to the decadelong pursuit of Golan.
However, a sternly-worded ruling by the same court in September suggests that the
battle over the future of the antiquities trade is just beginning.
8,000-word ruling handed down on September 29, the justices rejected Golan’s
appeal against his conviction and sentence on three minor charges and used the
opportunity to declare war on the antiquities market.
Branding the trade
in antiquities “damaging” and motivated by “avarice,” the ruling authored by
Supreme Court Justice Daphne Barak-Erez depicts “a world of collectors
exchanging treasures teeming with trembling hands and heart – often within the
law, and sometimes without,” and notes with approval that “in most countries of
the world there is a general ban on the trade in antiquities, because of their
recognition as a national resource.”
She further observed that this
“conception also serves as the basis for the antiquities law” in
The ruling places the Supreme Court on a potential collision
course with the Israel Museum and other major archeological collections in the
country, which all display items purchased from the market. Israel Museum
curators and experts have described a complex and well-oiled procedure of
verification and testing carried out in museum laboratories to determine the
significance and authenticity of items offered by dealers.
Many of the
Israel Museum’s most notable archeological exhibits, including the Dead Sea
Scrolls, royal seal impressions and coins, were purchased on behalf of the
museum from the antiquities market and not discovered in authorized
This article was originally published in Bible