Coronavirus outbreak prompts man to return stolen relic

Posted by Elise Kirsten on 17 March 2020

Prompted by the coronavirus outbreak, an Israeli man who had stolen a 2,000-year-old ballista stone when he was a teenager, organised to return the ancient relic anonymously.

According to, ‘The man explained that the coronavirus crisis made him feel “the end of the world is near” and he wanted to clear his conscience.’

Fellow Israeli Moshe Manies agreed to be the go-between and to return the stolen stone to the state without divulging the identity of the thief.

Manies explained that the robber had toured a display of ballista stones at the Jerusalem Walls National Park when he was a teenager and had nabbed one of the antiquities. The stones were probably used by the Roman Legion to attack Jerusalem in about 70 CE – the year of the destruction of Jerusalem.

‘One of the boys took one of the stones home. Meanwhile, he got married and raised a family, and told me that for the past 15 years the stone is weighing heavily on his heart. And now, when he came across it while cleaning for Passover, together with the apocalyptic feeling the Coronavirus generated, he felt the time was ripe to clear his conscience, and he asked me to help him return it to the Israel Antiquities Authority,’ said Manies in a Facebook post.

One of Manies’ Facebook followers Uzi Rotstein, is an inspector at the Antiquities Robbery Prevention Unit at the Israel Antiquities Authority. Rotstein quickly organised to fetch the relic and return it to Jerusalem Walls National Park.

‘We commend the return of the artifact and appeal to anyone who has taken an archaeological artifact, to take a weight off their heart and return it to the State Treasury,’ said Rotstein.

‘These artifacts, which are thousands of years old, are our national treasure. They tell the story of The Land and of who resided here before us and should be documented and displayed.’

Image: Generic image of ballista stones: Wikipedia Commons.

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