The United States has returned a rare silver quarter shekel coin was minted by Jewish rebels 2,000 years ago on Temple Mount – and that could be worth as much as USD 1 million – to Israel.
The rare coin was looted from Israel some 20 years ago after it was dug up in a valley near Jerusalem.
Newsflash obtained a statement from the Israel Antiquities Authority on Tuesday, 13th September, saying that the rare coin had been handed over to Israel in an official ceremony on Monday, 12th September.
The ceremony took place at the office of the Manhattan District Attorney in the presence of the director of the Israel antiquities authority, Eli Eskozido, the Consul General of Israel in New York, Asaf Zamir, the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, the Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, and Homeland Security Deputy Special Agent in Charge, Mike Alfonso, according to the statement.
The extremely rare coin, of which there are only four known to exist in the world, had reportedly been “stolen smuggled out of Israel years ago”.
The statement said that it is a quarter shekel coin made of silver, from the fourth year of the Jewish Great Revolt against the Roman Empire, which took place between 66 AD and 73 AD.
The Israel Antiquities Authority explained: “The Roman Empire had granted local rulers limited permission to mint bronze coins, according to the client rulers’ respective degrees of importance and how close they were to the central government. Minting silver coins was a much more limited privilege granted to lesser number of more important and central cities.”
Ilan Hadad, an archaeologist and the inspector in charge of commerce at the Antiquities Theft Prevention Unit (ATPU) of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said: “Because of this, the minting of silver coins by the leaders of the Great Revolt was in fact a declaration of independence by the Jews in the land of Israel, a statement against the mighty empire that stood before them.
“Many of the rebels’ silver coins were struck over imperial silver coins, covering the emperor’s face with Jewish motifs. This gave the coin a much greater symbolic value than the monetary value of the coin itself.”
The statement also said: “Quarter Shekel coins from the fourth year of the revolt have not previously been found in situ in archaeological excavations. One similar coin was acquired in the 1930s by the British Museum, and about three more unofficially “circulate” in the antiquities black market and among various collectors.
“In 2002, Palestinian antiquities looters unearthed a hoard of coins from the period of the Great Revolt, in the Elah Valley area. Among the coins in the hoard was a quarter shekel made of silver from 69 CE –– a year before the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.”
The Israel Antiquities Authority explained that it spent the next two decades trying to locate the rare coin, explaining that it “passed through illicit antiquities markets in Israel, Jordan and the United Kingdom.
“In London, false provenance papers were prepared to export the Quarter Shekel from the UK to the US, where it was offered for sale at the Heritage Auction’s World Coins & Ancient Coins Signature Auction scheduled for August 3, 2017, in Denver, Colorado.”
The case was passed to Colonel Matthew Bogdanos, Chief of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit (ATU) earlier this year. The Israel Antiquities Authority said: “Working closely together, the Israeli Antiquities Authority and the ATPU developed sufficient evidence to execute a seizure warrant for the coin and received a court order repatriating the coin to Israel.”
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, said: “As Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, this event is especially important to me because the Palestinians are working at the UN to hide the history of our people and erase our connection to the Land of Israel. But no matter how many lies are spread, the truth cannot be erased and the truth is laid out here this evening for all to see.
“This coin is evidence of the eternal bond between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, and as Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, I can also utilize it in my mission to fight the lies of our enemies.”