June 2, 2009

New Yorker returns Jerusalem artifact

A New Yorker suffering from a guilty conscience returned an ancient stone taken from a Jerusalem archaeological dig near the Temple Mount in 1997.

The Israel Antiquities Authority Tuesday said in a statement a New York clergyman sent an email to the organization several weeks ago asking to return the stone on behalf of a member of his congregation.

"I am requesting forgiveness for a member of my congregation. ...the fellow confessed to

me that twelve years ago he took a stone from Jerusalem and his conscience has bothered him ever since." the clergyman wrote.

A letter written by the culprit accompanied the 46 pound stone that was shipped back to Israel in a wooden crate. In the letter, the man said that while visiting the excavation site south of the Temple Mount, the Israeli tour guide gave him the stone to take home. Only later did I realize that he probably took the stone from the excavation without permission, the New Yorker wrote.

Yuval Baruch an IAA archeologist for the Jerusalem district said the stone is a column fragment discovered during excavations south of the Temple Mount and is possibly part of the official Umayyad caliphs palace complex dating back more than 1,200 years ago.