Bizarre 18th century Jewish items seized from archaeology smuggler in Egypt
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Bizarre 18th century Jewish items seized from archaeology smuggler in Egypt

Collection of artifacts taken from a Saudi citizen; also found, and undated, was a 29-page book written in esoteric 'Hebrew,' described as 'the commandments of Judas Iscariot' -- and illustrated with scorpions

Amanda Borschel-Dan is The Times of Israel's Jewish World and Archaeology editor.

A display of smuggled Jewish items which were seized in Egypt on August 17, 2017 (Facebook)
A display of smuggled Jewish items which were seized in Egypt on August 17, 2017 (Facebook)

A collection of 18th century Jewish items was seized from archaeology smugglers by Egyptian authorities late last week in a joint operation between the Hurghada Ports Authority and the Egyptian Ports Antiquities Unit of the Ministry of Antiquities.

The smugglers attempted to move six Jewish artifacts via the Red Sea resort city of Hurghada. According to a report in AhramOnline, Ahmed Al-Rawi, head of the Central Administration of Seized Antiquities Unit at the antiquities ministry, said the seized loot was discovered in the possession of a Saudi citizen. Al-Rawi said the finds were authenticated in accordance with law 117/1983.

Included in the trove was a cane with a handle carved in stone which depicts a bearded man wearing a yarmulke.

Additionally, five stone reliefs engraved with texts written in Hebrew and other Jewish decorative elements were discovered, according to a Facebook post from the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

An additional find in the seized collection was a 29-page Hebrew book described by the Egyptians as “the commandments of Judas Iscariot,” one of the 12 disciples of Jesus. This item was not dated to the 18th century and its typeface points to a much more modern provenance.

Items of Jewish interest seized in Egypt by the Ministry of Antiquities from a Saudi citizen in the Red Sea resort Hurghada. (Facebook)
Items of Jewish interest seized in Egypt by the Ministry of Antiquities from a Saudi citizen in the Red Sea resort Hurghada. (Facebook)

Two images of pages from the book released by the Ministry of Antiquities include esoteric “Hebrew” text, which appears to be a poor translation from some other language. The pages are black and white and decorated with what could be either scorpions or lobsters. In the center of each page is a poster-like block of text written in disjointed Hebrew.

One page is titled “To the level of” and uses Modern Hebrew words, including “matkon” (recipe), which would date the page to within the past 100 years.

An image from a 29-page book with bizarre Hebrew text seized in the Red Sea resort Hurghada by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. (Facebook)
An image from a 29-page book with bizarre Hebrew text seized in the Red Sea resort Hurghada by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. (Facebook)

The second page, which is illustrated by a Greek goddess-like woman holding a menorah triton, roughly reads, “Learn how to rise above things, and this can be done if I weren’t strong,” in a Hebrew one might suspect was written through Google translate.

Bizarre Hebrew text seized in the Red Sea resort Hurghada by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. (Facebook)
Bizarre Hebrew text seized in the Red Sea resort Hurghada by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. (Facebook)
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