The Jerusalem Post Online Edition Magazine ran a feature article November 12 here about Shlomo Moussaieff here. Moussaieff, 86, is known for many things. He is a billionaire, but he is also a collector of archaeological artifacts, Torah scrolls, cuneiform inscriptions, and other significant items.
Moussaieff has received renewed attention in connection with the recent law suit accusing antiquities experts of forgery. Here are a few comments by Lauren Gelfond Feldinger, author of the magazine feature.
His stories, like his collections, are often considered controversial. In the antiquities world, he is especially renowned for often turning his nose up at the accepted logic that artifacts should be documented in situ by archeologists to make the most of their historical meaning. Moussaieff bah-humbugs traditional thinking, arguing, like his old friend Moshe Dayan, that so-called looters are also salvaging history by bringing it into the light and keeping it out of the dusty cellars of antiquities authorities.
In court I showed them how to know if the clay is genuine – I lick it. I know the taste. After so many years in the business, just looking, you also know. Everyone who is jealous says that I have some fakes. I spend a lot of money to double-check, and so far in four years of court cases they haven’t been able to prove any one of them is a fake. I have been collecting for 65 years and have 60,000 items in my collection. It is possible I have made a mistake, but if I have made a mistake, nobody can prove it. (Laughs.)
When asked why he snubs Israel’s antiquities laws, Moussaieff said,
These are ridiculous laws from the time of the Turks. The Antiquities Authority should be teaching and not torturing. They should ignite history. Instead, they find Arab shepherds and beat them and take what they have. What do they have, broken clay pieces? Bravo. All day they sit with a telescope to see who is going in the field to look for something, it’s ridiculous. For a 500-millimeter piece of parchment, they will put a man in jail.
If you build a building, you have to stop work, you have to pay for the excavation – not them. This is torture. The laws don’t make any sense. This is what they do with their budget? The law should allow more freedom, let anybody display anything in his house, and not make a coin collection worth $10 illegal. They have 600,000 coins in storage, what do they display? A few pieces.
I have artifacts from the time of Abraham. I have artifacts from the second our people were born. They call me a looter. They call me an antiquities thief. Nobody wanted to publish my things [that were not found in situ]. But the museums could only pray to have such a collection as I have. Now that they realize that how much I have and that it is not fake, they all love me, they all want my collections.
HT: Joseph I. Lauer