Moshe Dayan's Controverisal Antiquities Collection Goes on DisplayARTHUR MAX , Associated Press
Apr. 9, 1986 1:40 PM ET
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Four years after the death of Israeli soldier and statesman Moshe Dayan, the public will get its first look at the antiquities that critics say he plundered from the nation.
Among the 1,000 items in Dayan's collection that will go on display Tuesday at the Israel Museum are rare pieces that will help archaeologists learn more about the history of the Holy Land.
Other items are junk, and Dayan apparently was hoodwinked into buying some forgeries, according to Tallay Ornan, a museum curator.
Dayan bought about half the antiques, and Mrs. Ornan said he pirated the rest in private excavations that are banned in Israel.
By law, all discoveries must be reported to the government's Department of Antiquities, and artifacts must be bought through licensed dealers.
The museum bought the collection for $1 million from Dayan's widow, Rachel. Museum spokesman Mike Segal said the pieces probably were worth twice that much, and their association with Dayan would have increased their market value.
In the museum's basement workroom, technicians preparing for the exhibit repaired 45 Canaanite clay coffins with faces carved on the lids in imitation of Egyptian mummy cases.
Metal shelves were crammed with earthenware jugs, fertility dolls and odd pieces like a 3,500-year-old, cow-shaped baby's rattle.
Dayan wrote that his most treasured piece was a 9,000-year-old ritual face mask that was plowed up by an Arab tractor driver in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
''It is a human face, but one that strikes terror in its beholder. If there be any power able to banish evil spirits, it must assuredly dwell in this mask,'' he wrote in his 1978 book, ''Living with the Bible.''
Dayan, the military chief of staff in the 1950s, was defense minister during the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli Wars. As foreign minister from 1977 to 1979, he helped engineer the peace treaty with Egypt, Israel's first with an Arab country.
An amateur archaeologist for 30 years, Dayan represented a generation of Jews born in their ancestral land who felt personal links with such figures as King David. Dayan roamed the countryside, guided by the Bible.
''Dayan was a romantic. He was not interested in true archaeology. He let his imagination go in a naive way, which scientists cannot do,'' Mrs. Ornan said in an interview.
Using his contacts and influence, Dayan got advance notice of new finds and bought rare discoveries from Arabs at bargain prices.
When he was chief of staff and later as defense minister, Dayan scoured the country in army helicopters and jeeps, and sometimes diverted troops to help him burrow through mounds of rubble to reach an archaeological treasure.
He had sharp intuition, but some of his worst acquisitions were made shortly before he died in October 1981, when his eyesight was failing.
''He was an antiquities robber,'' said Mrs. Ornan. ''He took advantage of his political and military position. That's the worst thing, and nobody ever said anything.'' No action was ever taken against Dayan.
Dayan's defenders said he rescued valuable artifacts that might otherwise be lost under construction sites or sold by Arab dealers to Jordan.
Although the museum has come under some criticism in the Israeli press for buying and displaying a collection obtained in a questionable manner, Mrs. Ornan said it was ''important to restore objects that belong to the people back to the people.''