Raiders of the tomb

Authorities arrest two men for attempting to steal antiquities from ancient Jerusalem cave.

Ancient Jerusalem cave 370 (photo credit: Antiques Authority)
Ancient Jerusalem cave 370
(photo credit: Antiques Authority)
Police arrested two men in their 20s late Monday night after catching them digging in protected antiquities areas near Jerusalem’s Old City.
Police and the Antiquities Authority’s Theft Prevention Unit caught the men in the middle of digging after receiving a tip from hikers who saw three men trying to break into a tomb three weeks ago.
Police arrested the men, who were using shovels and crowbars to break into an ancient cave near the Church of Gethsemane on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. The men said they were “looking for buried treasure,” according to Antiquities Authority spokeswoman Yoli Schwartz.
“The Kidron Valley area is the richest area in the tombs of the second temple in Jerusalem and the Byzantine period,” said Dr. Eitan Klein, deputy director of the Theft Prevention Unit, in a statement released by the authority.
“In the ancient stone tombs, most of which are sealed with large and heavy stones, there are sometimes burial objects placed with the deceased, such as oil lamps, glassware and other things.
These objects were expensive in ancient times, and today they have even greater value,” he said, adding that many of the burial objects are well-preserved and intact because they have been protected for so many years inside the sealed tombs.
The tourists first reported the group of thieves on the Antiquities Authority website.
The report spurred the police and the Theft Prevention Unit to undertake an operation to catch the thieves in the act.
The men were arrested late on Monday and remanded by the Jerusalem District Court.