Antiquities theft from Second Temple period prevented in central Israel

Security guards at Erez Crossing prevent smuggling of rare relics

March 6, 2017 17:48
1 minute read.
Antiquities theft

The hole dug by the suspects and metal detector used. (photo credit: COURTESY OF IAA ROBBERY PREVENTION UNIT)


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Three Arab men who attempted to loot gold coins from the archeological site of the Second Temple period’s bloody Bar Kokhba Revolt have been arrested by investigators from the Israel Antiquities Authority Robbery Prevention Unit.

Uzi Rothstein, an inspector from the unit, said he spotted one of the suspects during a routine afternoon patrol last Monday at the 2,000-year-old site, which is called Beit Shana and is located between Modi’in and Kibbutz Sha’alvim.

“I was on a regular mission at the site on the top of a hill and suddenly, about 50 meters away, I saw one of the members of the group digging. I ran to him and discovered there were two other men with shovels, metal detectors, pickaxes and large quantities of food and water,” Rothstein said on Monday.

“I shouted at them to not move, called my partners from the unit and the Modi’in police and questioned them about what they were doing there.”
Archeologists vs robbers in race to find Dead Sea scrolls in June 2016, preventing archeology and antiquities theft(credit: REUTERS)

ntiquities seized at Erez Crossing. (Courtesy of Crossings Authority Security Office)

After determining that the three suspects, who are all in their 40s, traveled illegally from the West Bank village of Beit Ur al-Tahta, Rothstein, aided by his partners and the police, placed the men under arrest.

“With help from the Modi’in police, we took them to their station and I opened an investigation and interrogated them in Arabic,” he said. “They confessed they came to the site to dig up gold coins.”

Although no coins were found on the men, Rothstein filed for an indictment against them for carrying out an illegal excavation.

The Bar Kokhba Revolt, also known as the Third Jewish Revolt, was led by Simon Bar Kokhba in 132 CE against the Roman Empire’s Gov. Lucius Verginius Rufus in Judea. The revolt resulted in the deaths and enslavement of hundreds of thousands of Jews and the purging of nearly 900 of Judea’s Jewish villages.

In a separate incident on Sunday at the Gaza border’s Erez Crossing, security forces prevented a Palestinian man attempting to enter Israel from smuggling in several antiquities from Egypt, including a signet ring from the Bronze Age, ancient coins from the Hasmonean period and an ancient statue.

The suspect was detained and the items were seized.

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