Jewish artifacts among loot seized by Egyptian authorities

Hebrew text recovered from smugglers by Egyptian authorities (Photo: Facebook/Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)

A passenger en route to Saudi Arabia was stopped by authorities in Cairo for attempting to smuggle archaeological relics — including Jewish items — from the North African country into the Middle East.

Among the loot seized were standard artifacts such as coins, pottery items, paper currency, documents and other trinkets. This smuggler however, was in possession of some unusual, intriguing and bizarre items and, hence, the story has garnered international attention. The Egyptian authorities said he had a very rare gold coin and other coins from the time of the British Mandate of Palestine — the land of Israel.

Apart from the coins was a cane with a handle carved in stone which depicts a bearded man wearing a yarmulke. It was not the only Jewish-related item in the trove. There were five stone reliefs engraved with texts written in Hebrew and other Jewish decorative elements. Also confiscated were 24 bonds, documents, slave contracts and a collection of 18th century items, including a 29-page book written in esoteric Hebrew script, described as “the commandments of Judas Iscariot” — and illustrated with scorpions or lobsters.

On Facebook, the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities released two images from the book. The content and font have caused confusion as the script seems to be a poor translation into Hebrew that could have been procured from a free and unreliable online translation program. One of the Hebrew words, for example, is matkon (recipe) which is from modern Hebrew.

The other page has illustrations such as a Greek goddess-like woman holding a menorah triton. The script on that page says something to the effect of, “Learn how to rise above things, and this can be done if I weren’t strong.” Again, the Hebrew is not authentic and it raises questions of what the book is, from where it came and to whom would it appeal?

The goods were seized by the Hurghada Ports Authority, based in the Red Sea resort city, and the Egyptian Ports Antiquities Unit of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

An Egyptian antiquities official said that the Saudi citizen had been stopped with the questionable items in his possession and that the items were authenticated and dated to the Khedival era.

The stash consisted of 25 Ottoman Era coins; 50 from the Sultan Hussein Kamel era (1914-1917); 74 from the reign of King Fouad (1922-1936); 27 from the King Farouk era (1936-1952) and three Saudi Arabian coins from the reign of King Abdulaziz Al Saud (1932-1953).

It appears the smuggler planned to hold an exhibition in Saudi Arabia with the intention of selling them.