The Anti-Plunder Task Force of the Israel Department of Antiquities was established in 1985. Its annual budget has been only $200,000. But then the annual budget of the entire Department of Antiquities was only $1,000,000 in 1987. Here are some of the task force’s findings, based on three years of work fighting illegal excavation:


• More than 11,000 sites (mostly tombs) have been robbed since 1967 within the pre-1967 borders of Israel. Of these, more than 6,000 are in the foothills of Judea.

• The exact number of sites robbed since 1967 in the occupied territories is unknown, but it’s in the thousands.

• The number of arrests made for antiquities plunder: 51.

• The number of convictions for antiquities plunder: 30.

• Average sentence following conviction: $300 fine.


• The number of antiquities shops within Israel’s pre-1967 borders: 85 (55 in Jerusalem and 15 in Tel Aviv-Jaffa). Only 20 of these dealers are engaged solely in antiquities trade. For most of them, it is just a sideline to sales of other merchandise.

• The number of antiquities shops in the occupied territories: 15 (mostly in Bethlehem).

• 80% of the people entering these shops are tourists; 67% of those buy an antiquity.

• 3% of the people entering the shops are middlemen either making a connection between robbers and dealers or buying wholesale for retail sale elsewhere.

• 17% of the people entering the shops are Israelis or Palestinians. But only 15% of these make a purchase.

• Number of objects sold per year: 100,000 (minimum).