You are coming on a Holy Land tour and really have your heart set on buying an ancient ossuary from the time of Herod or perhaps a 1st century coin from the time of Jesus. How do you know if it is real?
Long time Travelujah client, Al Newberry, from Pennsylvania is a Christian engineer with a penchant for biblical archaeology. He travels to Israel a few times a year to consult for the one of Israel’s leading companies.
On one of his trips to Israel we arranged for a private tour with an archaeological scholar at the the Israel Museum. He had intended to focus on the sarcophogus of Herod, but his tour gave him a lot more insight into antiquities than he had ever anticipated. He wrote to Travelujah about his experience:
“Regarding the (Israel) Museum, I simply can’t believe how it has changed!!
As you know, the guide you arranged was Yoav Farhi, a PhD candidate who is a leading coin expert in Israel.
The good news/bad news is that I also met with Shai Bar-Tura, from the Israel Antiquities Authority. This is why:
At Caesarea, I had bought 3 items: a lamp from the days of Herod which both Yoav and Shai believe is 100% genuine, a lamp from the Crusader period and both believe it is genuine. Shai gave me documents to take the lamps out of the country.
The bad news is that I also bought a coin which the dealer certified to be genuine and from Vespesian’s triumph over Judah.
Yoav looked at it and in 2 seconds said it is a fake. He offered to call Shai and he agreed.
I gave a legal statement to Shai and the dealer is facing deep trouble. I happily handed the coin over to Shai so it is in the hands of the Israel Antiquities Authority…
Obviously, Israel is not immune from the practice of selling ‘fake’ items – (which happens all over the world), but we would like to be able to say that every effort is made to ensure that the consumer is protected. And we can.
To protect tourists as well as the antiquities themselves, Israel has very explicit laws with regard to the sale and purchase of antiquities and all travelers should be aware of these laws. Basically, only authorized dealers can sell antiquities and they must operate with a special license that requires annual renewal.
The recent case of tour leader Abraham Lund, who was arrested for not having legal authorization to sell antiquities further highlights the importance of knowing and understanding Israel’s laws with regard to antiquities.
For those that don’t wish to read through Israeli law, the simply answer is:
1. Make sure that you buy an item at a store that is registered dealer of antiquities
2. You must obtain an export permit to take your purchased antiquity out of the country. The authroized dealer can e-mail the request to the Antiquities Authority or by visiting the Israel Antiquities Authority offices at the Rockfeller Museum.
3. Certain antiquities cannot be exported, such as large architectural pieces or other items with a unique inscription, or stone or clay ossuaries.
Bottom line: Know the laws and check to see the permit on the window and make sure it is current since permits are only good for one year and must be renewed!
Elisa Moed is the Founder and CEO of Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.
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