Antiquities thieves who allegedly sneaked into Israel on donkeys to face indictment

The IAA that the three men were surprised by anti-antiquities theft officers backed up by Border Patrol officers.

October 28, 2013 20:30
1 minute read.
The two men accused of thievery.

antiquity thieves 370. (photo credit: Courtesy IAA)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Monday extended for the second time the remand of three suspected antiquities thieves caught red-handed late Thursday night illegally excavating an archaeological site in the Valley of Ella era.

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said Monday that the three men were surprised by anti-antiquities theft officers backed up by Border Patrol and police officers while they had in their possession metal detectors, excavating tools, and ancient metals and relics.

The three men reportedly said in their defense that they were at the site gathering medicinal plants and not illegally digging in archeological sites.

In the coming days the Jerusalem District prosecutor's office plans to present an indictment against them the IAA said.

The IAA said Monday the three men, from Bethlehem and Kfar Nehilin snuck into Israel from the West Bank riding on donkeys through a mountainous area where the separation fence had still not been completed.

According to the IAA , the site where they were caught includes relics from the Hellenistic, Roman , and Byzantine eras.

Head of the Jerusalem District of the IAA's Antiquities theft prevention unit Uzi Rotstein, who took part in the Thursday night operation said Monday that "unapproved excavations in archaeological sites cause irreversible damage to the site and to the history of all of us. The archaeological layers are harmed and the findings are damaged and removed from their connections to the site and are lost to humanity permanently .

The incident was followed on Sunday by the arrest by IAA authorities and police of a man from the moshav of Sde Mosheh suspected of stealing antiquities from archaeological sites in the Lachish region.

In a search of his house, IAA officers and police found a number of relics including ancient coins, candle holders, and metal tools used for excavating.

According to IAA enforcement officials, the antiquities theft industry is a highly lucrative multi-million dollar illicit business involving illegal excavators, dealers, and collectors, working in Israel, the West Bank, and abroad.

The most highly-skilled excavators come from villages in the south Hebron Hills area where generations of men have made a living illegally excavating antiquities from archaeological sites within the Green Line. They search for all types of relics, but in particular, coins from the Bar Kochba era which can fetch thousands of dollars from collectors abroad.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

August 31, 2014
Rioting resumes throughout east Jerusalem Saturday night