Judean Mountains 370.
(photo credit: Antiquities Authority)
One man is under arrest after attempting to illegally unearth Byzantine-era gold
coins in ruins in the Judean Mountains, an inspector with the Antiquities
Authority said Sunday.
Five other suspects remain at large.
Wednesday morning at approximately 10:30, six men carrying shovels and three
metal detectors were first spotted by passersby at an ancient site near the
Sorek Basin, said Uzi Rotstein of the authority’s Theft Prevention
Deeming the men suspicious, the witnesses contacted the authority,
which promptly dispatched the unit to observe and follow the
Rotstein said the suspects began ascending a tall mountain toward
another protected site, where the ruins of a Byzantine church remain, which they
reached at approximately 10 p.m.
“When they got there they divided into
three groups of two, and each had a metal detector and shovels,” he
“The two that were closest to us suspected something and began to
run.” Rotstein said.
When the suspects fled, the inspectors turned on
their flashlights and gave chase to all six men, apprehending one from the Husan
“Unfortunately, it was quite dark and the area has very rugged
terrain, so the other five got away,” he said.
The inspector said that
during questioning, the apprehended suspect admitted they were looking for gold
coins in the area, and told him his accomplices hailed from Idna village, south
of the Hebron Hills.
Rotstein said the suspect has been in police custody
since his apprehension and was ordered by a judge at the Jerusalem District
Court to remain in custody until a another hearing on Wednesday.
Director of the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery Dr. Eitan Klein said Sunday
that historic areas in the Judean Mountains have increasingly become the targets
of bandits who loot the sites searching for valuable relics and gold
“The Judean Mountains in general, and Sorek Basin in particular,
are rich in archeological sites which illustrate the rich historical and
cultural history of Israel,” said Klein.
Klein added that any ancient
sites excavated without a permit from the Antiquities Authority constitutes a
severe violation of law, which can result in prison sentences of up to five
Roststein said that while members of the Theft Prevention Unit are
not police officers, they carry side arms and are sanctioned by the government
to make arrests.