I have nothing against Shuka Dorfman, the director of the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA)—the few conversations I’ve had with him have been quite pleasant. But he sure does have it in for me. And I really can’t understand his wrath, although I do know why he’s mad. He’s angry because I didn’t tell him ahead of time that we were going to publish André Lemaire’s article about the bone box inscribed “James, the son of Joseph, the brother of Jesus” (it appeared in our November/December 2002 issue). The day after we published the story, the bone box, or ossuary, was on the front page of newspapers around the world, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and the International Herald Tribune. When reporters came to the IAA for comment, they knew nothing about it.
And Shuka was embarrassed. More than that: He was mad.
To make matters worse, he had already issued an export permit to the owner of the ossuary for an exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto last November and December. The export application quoted the inscription and valued the shipment, which included a second ossuary, at $1 million. But even that was not enough to alert the IAA to the extraordinary nature of the ossuary and its inscription. So Shuka was doubly embarrassed, and doubly mad.