Family Businesses?? (November 12, 2006)

Amulets, found in the couple's home
Amulets, found in the couple's home

Israel Antiquities Authority inspectors apprehended two husband and wife couples, suspected of having committed antiquities robberies. A world renowned French professor is being questioned in connection with one of the affairs on suspicion of having aided in deciphering and treating ancient artifacts thought to have been stolen.

In a special operation carried out by inspectors of the Israel Antiquities Authority, a resident of one of the moshavim located in the region of the Jerusalem corridor was apprehended while he was searching for coins in a declared antiquities site in the vicinity of the Latrun junction. The suspect was caught together with his wife who was with him at the site and was apparently there acting as a “lookout”. The suspect was found to be in possession of a sophisticated metal detector and excavation equipment. The couple was arrested and questioned by investigators of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery. While questioning them a search warrant was executed in their home, at which time dozens of archaeological finds thought to have been plundered from various antiquties sites in the Judean Shephelah were confiscated. Among the artifacts are two amulets that are considered to be rare and extremely valuable from an archaeological standpoint; one is made of silver and the other is lead. The amulets are engraved with inscriptions in Syro-Aramaic script. Also confiscated from the suspects’ residence were a number of intact pottery vessels characteristic of the contents of Jewish tombs, glass vessels that were used as funerary offerings in tombs and ancient coins dating to different periods. Inspectors of the Israel Antiquities Authority discovered some of the ancient glass vessels hidden amongst laundry in the suspects’ washing machine. It is thought the antiquities were concealed there by members of the suspects’ family after they were informed of their relatives’ arrest.

The director of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery, Amir Ganor, stated that the unit’s investigation revealed the suspects consulted with an expert, a world renowned professor of epigraphy, in order to decipher the inscriptions for them. The expert, a French citizen staying in Israel and associated with the academic community in the country, deciphered the inscriptions for them and treated the items that are thought to be stolen. The Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery reported that the professor is also being investigated in this matter. The suspects were released on bail and their investigation continues and is branching out in other directions.

In another event that took place in the vicinity of the city of Kfar Saba, two suspects were seen engaged in searching for coins with a metal detector in a declared antiquities site in the ‘Emeq Hefer region. The two, a husband and wife, were spotted working at the site by the security coordinator of the settlement of Kfar Yedidya. In the wake of the information provided, Antiquities Authority inspectors and police from the detective squad of the Kfar Saba police station searched the suspects’ home and found a metal detector and a number of archaeological exhibits suspected of being stolen. The Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery reports that this is not the first time that married couples are suspected of breaking the Antiquities Law.

Osnat Goaz, the spokesperson for the Israel Antiquities Authority, wishes to remind the public that looking for antiquities without the permission of the Antiquities Authority, including the use of metal detectors, are criminal offenses subject to a maximum of three years imprisonment.

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