Imagine walking into a living room and discovering a display of antiquities rivaling the holdings of the great museums. That’s what you see when you walk into the home of Shlomo Moussaieff, one of the world’s pre-eminent collectors of antiquities. BAR editor Hershel Shanks recently visited Moussaieff in his London apartment. As is typical of the shadowy world of antiquities collecting, Moussaieff had been doing his best to stay out of the public spotlight for years. Once the door was thrown open, both literally and figuratively, the Jerusalem-born Moussaieff was eager to discuss his artifacts, his colorful life and the world of collecting. It is a world filled with priceless items, possible fakes, the contradictory opinions of scholars over authenticity—like the movie classic The Maltese Falcon except that it’s real. Shanks describes Moussaieff’s “Magnificent Obsession.”
Jerusalem’s population rose 20 percent in the past 10 years, and apartment buildings, shopping centers, parking lots and highways multiplied to accommodate the newcomers. Such rapid growth could have quickly destroyed many ancient remains in the city. But, because Israeli law requires developers to stop work immediately when remains are unearthed and to call in archaeologists to investigate the site, development has actually become a boon—leading archaeologists to conduct dozens of small digs throughout the city. Many of the sites are being preserved for the public as archaeological parks. In “Jerusalem as Textbook,” Gideon Avni surveys several of these digs, conducted in the narrow streets of the Old City, beside the Temple Mount and outside the Old City wall.