Robber returns artifacts he stole 20 years ago, leaving a note: “They brought me nothing but trouble'
Amos Cohen, an employee of the Museum of Islamic and Near Eastern Cultures in the southern city of Beersheba, did not believe his eyes last week when he opened a bag left in the museum’s courtyard. Inside were two slingshot stones, along with a typed note that read:
“These are two Roman ballista balls from Gamla, from a residential quarter at the foot of the summit. I stole them in July 1995 and since then they have brought me nothing but trouble. Please, do not steal antiquities!”
Gamla was an ancient Jewish city on the Golan Heights and the site of a Roman siege during the Great Revolt of the 1st century. According to Galilee commander and historian Josephus Flavius, some 4,000 inhabitants were slaughtered, while 5,000, trying to escape down the steep slope were either trampled to death, fell or perhaps threw themselves down a ravine
This is not the first time that cases of remorse for the theft or unauthorized possession of antiquities have reached the Israel Antiquities Authority. In the past a 2,000-year-old Jewish coffin was returned after being kept in the bedroom of a Tel Aviv resident until he realized the morbid meaning of the find. In another case a minister from the state of New York asked for forgiveness for a member of his congregation whose conscience was tormented by the fact he took a stone from Jerusalem more than a decade earlier. The stone was returned.
Dr. Danny Syon of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who excavated at Gamla for many years, welcomed the return of the stones.
“Almost 2,000 such stones were found during the archaeological excavations in the Gamla Nature Reserve, and this is the site where there is the largest number of ballista stones from the Early Roman period. The Romans shot these stones at the defenders of the city in order to keep them away from the wall, and in that way they could approach the wall and break it with a battering ram. The stones were manually chiseled on site by soldiers or prisoners”.