The Archaeological Council, Israel’s highest official archaeological body charged with advising the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), has unanimously protested the arrest of archaeologist Hanan Eshel on charges of buying looted antiquities. As reported in our last issue,a Eshel was arrested on the complaint of IAA director general Shuka Dorfman because Eshel purchased and published some recently discovered fragments of Leviticus that Bedouin had found in a cave near the Dead Sea.
Dorfman, who attended the meeting of the Archaeological Council, rejected the protest.
Another protest signed by nearly 60 leading academics also protested Dorfman’s pursuit of Eshel as a criminal. Published in the Hebrew newspaper Ha’aretz, the protest concluded by stating that the signatories “are convinced that Eshel rescued the scroll fragments, which otherwise could have been lost. His treatment as an ordinary criminal is a vengeful act—unwise, unfair and unparalleled in the attitude of a public institution toward a scientist.”