Tourists, collectors and even scholars have long purchased antiquities legally in Israel. Some of these purchased antiquities, such as the James Ossuary and the ivory pomegranate, are well known to BAR readers.a Most, however, are simple coins, oil lamps and clay pots, the everyday items of ancient life that, millennia later, have become treasured possessions of their new owners.
But what exactly makes the purchase (and sale) of antiquities legal in Israel?
This issue made headlines recently when American John Lund, a longtime tour guide to Israel and retired university lecturer, was arrested in Israel on charges of antiquities trafficking. In May, the 70-year-old Lund was arrested by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Israeli customs officials as he attempted to leave the country with ancient coins, clay lamps and scores of checks totaling $20,000. The IAA claims the money was obtained from the illegal sale of antiquities.