When Rishon Lezion was founded by Zionist pioneers in the late 1800s, one of its most cherished symbols was a bell that hung from a tower. The bell was donated to the new settlement by Edmond James de Rothschild, the Jewish financier and scion of the Rothschild family.

In 1960, however, residents were stunned to discover that the bell had been stolen. Police and municipality officials were unable to track down the bell – until now.

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Last Friday, the bell was returned by one of three men who admitted to stealing the bell as a prank. When they were just 16 years old, the three took the bell down from the tower and hauled it back to Givat Shmuel, where they hid it underneath the staircase of the home of one of their parents.

For decades, none of the three men mentioned the theft out of shame and regret for what they had done. After 54 years, however, one of them summoned the courage to confide in a friend, who subsequently informed Army Radio. The IDF-run radio station then helped to retrieve the bell to its rightful owners – the Rishon Lezion Museum.

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