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January 20, 2017 11:25 am

Israeli Authorities Catch Band of Antiquities Thieves In The Act

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An Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) worker excavates in a Judean Desert cave. Photo: Yuli Schwartz/IAA.

An Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) worker excavates in a Judean Desert cave. Photo: Yuli Schwartz/IAA.

JNS.org — Inspectors from the Israel Antiquities Authority and Israeli Border Police apprehended a band of 11 antiquities thieves this week who they caught in the act of digging into a hidden cave located in what was once a Jewish village in the Lower Galilee region.

The ring of thieves — the largest ever apprehended in Israel’s north — was caught seriously damaging the cave in the ancient, Roman-era city of Maskana by members of the Antiquities Robbery Prevention Unit, border patrol officers and volunteers.

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

Most ancient caves used as hiding places by Jews under Roman rule that have been discovered by Israeli officials are located in the Judean Plains, and date back to the time of the Great Revolt around 70 CE and the Bar Kokhba revolt around 135 CE. 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.

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