Saturday, November 25, 2006

Ancient treasures lure modern thieves
With Israeli, Palestinian authorities busy with other matters, Bedouins rob tombs much as forefathers did

Matthew Kalman, [San Francisco] Chronicle Foreign Service

Friday, November 24, 2006

(11-24) 04:00 PST Herodion, West Bank -- At least two nights a week, Abu Moussa, the Bedouin leader of Herodion, takes his sleeping bag, tools and a small group of men and heads into the mountains to practice the trade he learned from his father and grandfather before him -- robbing the treasures of ancient tombs.

It's a tradition that goes back centuries, and these days it is considered illegal by both Israeli and Palestinian police. But as the Palestinian economy crumbles in the face of Israeli security restrictions and crippling international sanctions against the Hamas-led government of the Palestinian Authority, ancient treasures buried in the biblical landscape have become a major source of income for many West Bank residents.

"The mountains and valleys in this area are full of caves. All the boys and men in the village search the caves to look for antiquities, and they bring whatever they find to me, because I am the mukhtar, the leader of the village, and I know about all these things," said Abu Moussa, 50, displaying a table covered with treasures, including a 3,000-year-old Canaanite earthenware jug, several oil lamps, decorated bowls, and fistfuls of ancient coins, weights and arrowheads.


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