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The Schmooze

Robbers Target Israel’s Past

Speak to any elderly Israeli, and one of the first things they will say regarding how the country has changed over the decades is that there has been an increase in crime. We used to leave our doors open, they are likely to say, before going on to discuss the numerous locks they have installed now.

But there are some valuables you just can’t lock away.

Criminals today are out to steal the country’s past — they are robbing archaeological remains. It emerged this week that four men were arrested for allegedly trying to rob an archaeological site near Beit Shemesh, which has artifacts dating back 3,000 years. They are expected to be indicted soon.

Apparently there are almost 150 arrests for robbery at archaeological sites each year. Many of the robbers are thought to be motivated by the hope of finding treasures with which deceased were buried.

These robbers pose a difficult problem for archaeologists and law enforcement officials. Israel has 30,000 archaeological sites. How can they be protected, and at what cost should the necessary resources be deployed? The figure for security patrols may be high, but then again, Israel’s history is irreplaceable.

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