Israeli authorities catch band of antiquities thieves in the act



The scene where Israeli authorities caught antiquities thieves digging deep underground at the ancient site of Maskana in the Lower Galilee region. Credit: Samuel Magal/Israel Antiquities Authority.

(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to Inspectors from the Israel Antiquities Authority and Israeli Border Police apprehended 11 antiquities thieves this week while the thieves were digging in a hidden cave that once belonged to the ancient Jewish village of Maskana, located near what is now the Golani Junction in the Lower Galilee region.

The ring of thieves—the largest ever apprehended in Israel's north—was caught in the act by members of the Antiquities Robbery Prevention Unit as well as border patrol officers and volunteers. The thieves dug deep into the cave and caused serious damage to the site.

"Maskana was a Jewish village in the Roman period," said Nir Distelfeld, a member of the Antiquities Robbery Prevention Unit. He added, "The Maskana community is mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud as a Jewish village located halfway between [the ancient northern city of] Sepphoris and Tiberias."

Most of the hiding places that are known to authorities are located in the Judean Plains in central Israel, and date back to the time of the Great Revolt around 70 C.E. and the Bar Kokhba revolt around 135 C.E. Such hiding places are less common in Israel’s north.

Inspectors seized excavation tools and sophisticated metal detectors from the caves. The thieves had collected shards of pottery that had been used in ancient times.

Posted on January 20, 2017 .