Gold coins (illustrative)
Gold coins (illustrative) Israel news photo: Flash 90

Two Arabs from the Tul Karem area were caught red-handed Sunday digging in a protected archaeological site. The two were found at the bottom of a 4.5 meter hole in the Emek Hefer area, where an archaeological dig of an 1,800 year old Roman-Byzantine era village. The two had in their possession sophisticated digging equipment, flashlights, cameras, and a generator.

The two were arrested and questioned, and revealed that they had actually been hired by several Israelis – to search for gold. It turns out that there is a local legend of a large gold treasure being buried in the site, left there hundreds of years ago during the Ottoman period. It is not clear if they were working based on a treasure map, but they said they planned to dig an additional eight meters underground.

The Archaeological Authority said that pirate exploration, no matter the reason, was a crime, and that such activity caused irreperable damage to archaeological sites. Police intend to arrest the Israeli bosses of the detainees in the coming days, they said.