Israeli man arrested in Turkey for allegedly stealing ancient artifact

Acre resident reportedly says that he bought the item, which he claims is mass-produced, at a local market for $100

Illustrative: Sellers attend to customers in a street market in Eminonu commercial district in Istanbul, Turkey, on June 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, File)
Illustrative: Sellers attend to customers in a street market in Eminonu commercial district in Istanbul, Turkey, on June 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, File)

An Israeli man was reportedly arrested in Turkey last week after airport officials in Antalya found an ornamental bell in his luggage that they claimed was an ancient artifact.

The man, however, claimed that he bought the item in a local market for $100, presenting a receipt and saying it is a mass-produced product. Hebrew media reported that the Acre resident is suspected of attempting to smuggle an ancient artifact out of the country and the Turkish authorities are refusing to accept any intervention from Israeli officials in the case.

His wife and children were allowed on the plane to depart Turkey last week at the end of a family vacation, and his son Shlomi has appealed publicly for help.

“We need the help of the most senior officials in the country,” he told the Ynet news site. “My father is an older person with medical problems and his situation is not good. He wants to return home and is under very severe psychological pressure.”

Relatives have reportedly returned to Turkey in an effort to get him released. A local attorney assessed that such efforts are likely to take many weeks to see results.

In 2021, an Israeli couple was detained for a week by Turkish authorities on suspicion of espionage after having photographed the residence of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul. The couple was released following extensive diplomatic efforts.

Israeli couple Mordi and Natalie Oknin, who were held in Turkey for a week on suspicion of espionage, are greeted upon their arrival home in Modiin on November 18, 2021 following their release. (GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

At the time, the release of the couple was complicated by longstanding tensions between Ankara and Jerusalem.

Relations have since warmed. Last year, President Isaac Herzog met with Erdogan in Turkey, and then-prime minister Yair Lapid met with Erdogan in New York in the fall.

A planned trip of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet with Erdogan in Turkey, which would have been a first since 2006, was postponed following the premier’s pacemaker implantation surgery.

Michael Bachner contributed to this report.

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