Indiana Jones and the heist of the antiquities in Palmahim Beach: who is responsible?
The robbery of the antiquities of a burial cave on Palmahim Beach turns the spotlight on the meager budget of the "Robbery Prevention Unit" at the Antiquities Authority, but no less on the disturbing question: Could it be that someone was too quick to tell the guys and thus drew the attention of the thieves to the discovery?
Sunday, 02 October 2022, 11:34 Updated: 13:05
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Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones.
Archeology succeeds in igniting the imagination of all of us.
Also of the thieves (photo: imdb)
Every time an exciting archaeological find is discovered, we all feel a little like the daring Indiana Jones, who went looking for treasures hidden in the ground around the world.
The Antiquities Authority recognized the public's fondness for these stories and are in a hurry to share fascinating discoveries with them.
This was also the case with the rare burial cave from the time of Pharaoh Ramses II, containing dozens of intact objects, which was unexpectedly uncovered in the Palmachim National Park.
On September 18, the Antiquities Authority issued a detailed statement to the media, describing how during development work by the Nature and Parks Authority in Palmahim, five days earlier, a tractor hit a rock, unexpectedly revealing the ceiling of an ancient burial cave.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime find," said Dr. Eli Yanai, an expert on the Bronze Age at the Antiquities Authority, excitedly, "It's not every day that you see an Indiana Jones set - a cave with tools on the floor that haven't been touched in 3,300 years."
On the same day, the director general of the Authority, Eli Escozido, published a photographic record of the cave on his Facebook page, without mentioning the important detail that actually appeared in the margin of the message to the media: "In the short period of time before the opening was sealed, and despite security measures, one or more people entered the cave reaching the number points
The vast majority of the tools remained in place, but a number of items appeared to have been stolen.
The circumstances of the case are being investigated."
Some of the objects that were discovered in the burial cave, as posted on the Facebook of the Director General of the Antiquities Authority (photo: surfer photos, from the Facebook page of the Antiquities Authority)
It is possible that behind the laconic report there is a disturbing omission: a day after the sensational discovery, it is also possible that following information that was leaked or illegally transferred, antiquities robbers broke into the rare cave, took ancient metal tools from there (among other things, bronze arrow heads or spears and bronze tools), and miraculously did not harm in the dozens of other pottery that were there.
The stolen tools have no face value, but antique dealers estimate they could sell for tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars on the black market and at auctions.
At the Antiquities Authority management meeting held on September 19, Amir Ganor, director of the Antiquities Authority's Robbery Prevention Unit, reported that an investigation is underway into what happened in the cave in Palmahim.
The Robbery Prevention Unit, established in 2000, and headed by Ganor since, is the one that was supposed to guard the cave with dozens of rare finds, by virtue of its duty to enforce the Antiquities Law: to protect the antiquities sites of the State of Israel and the antiquities' treasures from robbery and destruction, among other things by thwarting excavations Illegality, capture of criminals, supervision of antiquities trade, preparation for prosecuting criminals, documentation, reporting and publication of sites affected by robbery, coordination and supervision of IDF training.
The unit that is supposed to supervise about 35,000 antiquities sites throughout the country, of which 18 are currently excavated The work is budgeted at NIS 330,000 per year, about NIS 27,000 per month, and employs 12 people, of whom three are archaeologists and the rest are skilled police and military officers, who have undergone advanced training in surfing, climbing and rescue. It is no wonder that with the meager budget and the ridiculous number of employees, its people are unable To maintain our historical greed.
It turns out that this is not the only case where antiquities are looted from excavations of the PA.
Usually, after the site is excavated, a careful scientific record is made and it is covered with dirt.
Sophisticated antiquities robbers know how to reach the covered excavations and remove the loot from them.
They don't have to make an effort to find them, because the photographic documentation, including those accompanied by landmarks that appear on CEO Escozido's Facebook page, make their job easier.
Sources knowledgeable in the field of archaeological excavations explain that, usually, when findings are discovered during the work of private companies, the preservation They are budgeted for from the fee they pay to the Antiquities Authority, and the money does not come from the unit's budget. In the specific case of the cave in Palmahim, the Nature and Parks Authority, a public body that is not obligated to pay a generous fee, is the one that carried out the infrastructure work and therefore it too was supposed to be part of the site's maintenance.
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Director General of the Antiquities Authority Eli Escozido (left) together with Eitan Stiva (photo: official website, Antiquities Authority)
who is to blame?
The attempt to shift the responsibility to RTG is weak. When a person receives a valuable piece of jewelry, he puts it in a heavy safe and, if necessary, sleeps next to it at night. Authority sources say that the CEO, Escozido, blames the head of Merhav Merhav, Amit Shadman and Ganor for the omission, but ignores the donation his and the Antiquities Authority for the circumstances that made the theft possible.
The weekend after the robbery, not only was there a tight guard, the entire site was covered with a thick layer of concrete that was very difficult to penetrate.
But it was too late.
Currently, the robbery prevention unit is already in pursuit of the thieves.
As in the case of the rare quarter shekel coin, which was stolen decades ago, and after strenuous and extensive investigative operations was recovered (two weeks ago) by three of the Authority's personnel - who flew to New York to bring it to Israel - will an air mission from the Antiquities Authority still go out at our expense, to Bring back here the dozens of artifacts that were stolen from Palmahim due to an oversight that she was a part of?
A burial cave that was discovered on the Palmachim beach from the Facebook page of the Antiquities Authority (photo: surfers' photos, from the Facebook page of the Antiquities Authority)
The response of the Antiquities Authority:
The unfortunate incident of theft from the cave that was discovered in Palmahim is in the midst of an accelerated investigative procedure by the Israel Police.
The management of the Antiquities Authority is updated on its progress and we cannot go into detail at this stage, in order not to disrupt an investigation.
At the same time, a joint inspection committee was established for the Nature and Parks Authority - under whose responsibility and security the National Park in Palmahim is, and the Antiquities Authority, which is responsible for preserving the country's antiquities.
The committee, accompanied by the legal counsel of both bodies, will vote, at the end of its work, on conclusions, lessons and recommendations, which we will strive to implement.
We would like to emphasize that all the excavation sites that are not within reserved sites are strictly secured under the responsibility of the Authority's KBT, with the help of advanced technological systems.
The Antiquities Authority is, as you know, a public and state body.
We are proud of our practice, act transparently and share exciting and new findings from our work with the public through the press and social networks.
As we informed the public about the discovery, we also publicly reported on the robbery case.
We will study the conclusions, draw lessons, and at the same time - professionally and scientifically investigate the discoveries in the cave.
Israel Antiquities Authority
Nature and Parks Authority