The pictures that prove the guilt of Moshe Dayan - hero and thief

For three decades, General Moshe Dayan, the most revered Israeli military leader, looted archaeological sites in Israel and in territories conquered by the Israeli army. "He robbed antiquities wherever he could reach," says Uri Avneri, a former magazine editor and radical member of the Knesset, who for years campaigned against Gen Dayan's activities.

By the time he died, his reputation tarnished by setbacks in the 1973 war with Egypt and Syria, the archaeological depredations of Israel's most famous general were notorious. He frequently dispatched military units to locate and retrieve objects for his collection. On his death in 1981, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem paid $1m (pounds 620,000) for 1,000 objects owned by Gen Dayan, though critics argued that most were illegally acquired.

"It wasn't easy for archaeologists to stand up to him," says one Israeli ancient historian. Trudi Dottan, an archaeologist who knew Gen Dayan, says he had great intuition about where to dig, but also an all-consuming "lust for finding antiquities".

Uri Avneri says Gen Dayan grew up poor and was always eager for money: "He would go to an Arab dealer in Bethlehem, but the man would not dare to turn him down or charge him the real price for an object. It was close to expropriation."

Talay Arnon, curator of the Dayan collection at the Israel Museum, says pieces of ancient jewellery Gen Dayan is known to have once owned were not among the objects the museum bought: "What we got was mostly pots and jars."

The reason Gen Dayan was able to get away with this for so long was that after Israel's victories in 1956 and 1967 he was a national hero.

Mr Avneri says that not only did archaeologists not support him against Gen Dayan, but "I have never known such hatred towards me because of my campaign, not just in the Knesset but from people in the streets."

An Israeli journalist, Shush Mula, working for the Jeru-salem weekly, Kolha'ir, has now discovered photographs, taken by an Israeli military helicopter pilot, which for the first time show one incident of archaeological theft actually taking place just after the Israeli army, whose chief of staff was Gen Dayan, captured Sinai in 1956.

Uri Yarom, the pilot, has vivid memories of what happened, because he believes his life was put in danger by the venture, which had no military justification.

No sooner had the fighting finished during the Suez war of 1956 than Gen Dayan took his family to southern Sinai to visit Sarabit al-Khadim, a mountaintop which is the site of an ancient Egyptian sanctuary of the XII Dynasty, dedicated to the Goddess Hathor, often represented as a cow- headed wo-man. Beside her temple are stelae, or stone pillars, covered with hieroglyphs and carvings. On 27 November, only three weeks after the Israelis captured southern Sinai, Uri Yarom was sent to bring three of the stelae to Israel, where they ended up in the courtyard of Gen Dayan's house.

"We were told the mission was of national importance," Mr Yarom told Shush Mula. From the beginning they faced difficulties. Thick mist over Sinai made it difficult for them to reach Abu Rudeis, the airbase nearest to Sarabit al-Khadim. "We flew over the ground, seeing nothing but clouds," Mr Yarom said. "The maps we had in our hands were of no value."

At Abu Rudeis they found somebody had stolen the extra supplies of gasoline on which they were counting. As they waited there was a sandstorm and Mr Yarom was frightened that sand would get into the helicopter's engine. He tried to protect it with canvas cut from old beach umbrellas.

The next day, the helicopter found Sarabit al-Khadim after two failed attempts. The photographs show Mr Yarom standing with three other soldiers in front of a 10ft-high stele with others in the background.

Another photograph shows the AS-55 helicopter in the air with the stela hanging beneath it. It weighed half a tonne. "It was lack of responsibility not to tell us the weight," says Mr Yarom. Back in Tel Aviv a driver loading one of three stones onto a truck for carriage to Gen Dayan's house was surprised by its weight and dropped it, cracking the 3,500-year-old carving.

The travels of the carvings from the temple of Hathor were not over. In 1979, Gen Dayan was a member of the right-wing government of Menachim Begin as Foreign Minister. His reputation had never quite recovered from the initial success of the surprise attack made by Egypt and Syria in 1973.

At Camp David Israel agreed openly to return Sinai to Egypt and, less publicly, to return the carvings from Sinai which had been sitting in the courtyard of Gen Dayan's house."The main difficulty was to persuade Dayan to give them back," said one of those involved.

Two years later Gen Dayan died. His health had been damaged by falling into an archaeological excavation. There was criticism of the purchase of his collection by the Israel Museum for such a large sum since under Israeli law the objects should have automatically belonged to the state. Certain items were missing.

Talay Arnon, curator of the Dayan collection, says the museum has 35 unique pottery coffins from 1,400 BC found in the Gaza strip acquired by Gen Dayan, but there is "no sign of the jewellery found in some of them."

By contrast, the loot takenfrom Sarabit al-Khadim is back where it came from, none the worse for its sojourn in Israel, except that a large crack now runs down the face of a stele portraying the Goddess Hathor.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Dominique Alderweireld, also known as Dodo de Saumure, is the owner of a string of brothels in Belgium
newsPhilip Sweeney gets the inside track on France's trial of the year
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
Sport
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
News
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
music
News
i100
News
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
people
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lift Repairs Sales Account Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting new opportunity has...

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

£21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

Ashdown Group: Assistant Management Accountant - Part Qualified CIMA / ACCA

£30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are recruitment for an Assistan...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea