The end may or may not be nigh, but some people are stirred by the notion of impending doom to return antiquities they stole years and even decades ago to the benevolent authorities.
The latest archaeological artifact to be shamefacedly restored to the hands of the State of Israel is a ballista stone stolen 15 years ago from a dig in Jerusalem. The impetus? Not the usual apocalypse per se, but the coronavirus.
The unnamed penitent decided to return the 2,000-year-old weapon of warfare to the Israel Antiquities Authority because, he explained to the bemused authority, the coronavirus crisis leads him to suspect that “the end of the world is near.”
To be clear, the repentant thief didn’t slink into the offices of the IAA beating himself over the head with the stone ball. The IAA learned of the miscreant’s remorse via a third-party Facebook post by one Moshe Manies, who mediated the artifact’s return without disclosing the thief’s identity.
“It involved two ‘shababniks’ [rebellious teenagers], who, 15 years earlier, toured at the City of David site and came across a display of ballista stones, which were catapulted at fortifications,” Manies told the IAA. “One of the boys took one of the stones home.”
The theft doesn’t seem to have weighed on his heart too heavily over the years. He married and multiplied, as people who do not steal archaeological artifacts do. But forget the stone, he did not.
While cleaning the house for the upcoming Passover festival, as is the norm, he found himself facing not only grime of the home but of his past.