Antiquities Law, 1978 (Summary)

An antiquity, as defined by this law, refers to

(1) an artifact produced before the year 1700 CE.;

(2) a human-made object of historical value made after the year 1700 CE., and declared by the Minister of Education and Culture to be an antiquity; or

(3) a biological fragment dating from before the year 1300 CE.

The law sets out, inter alia, ownership rights for antiquities, rules for the excavation, sale, collection, export and protection of antiquities, and rules for establishing and protecting "antiquities sites". The law also establishes an Archeological Council to advise the Minister of Education and Culture and the Director of the Department of Antiquities and Museums of the Ministry on matters relating to antiquities; and an Objections Committee to which those who consider themselves aggrieved by decisions made under the Law may be heard. Penalties for contravention of the law are set out.

State Ownership of Antiquities and Restrictions on Antiquities

– Antiquities discovered after this Law came into force are the property of the State. The area in which it was found also becomes the property of the State.

– A person who discovers an antiquity is required to notify the Director of the Department of Antiquities and Museums of the Ministry of Education and Culture ("the Director"), and may be required to deliver the antiquity to the Director within. The director may reward the deliverer if he so chooses.

– The Director may waive State ownership of an antiquity.

– It is forbidden to take antiquities out of the State of Israel without the written approval of the Director.

License to Carry Out Excavations

– A person must have a license to dig or search in any manner for antiquities. The license defines the area in which the holder may dig, but does not "by itself confer on its holder the right of entry to land in another’s domain."

Protection of Sites on Which Antiquities are Discovered

– Work on land on which an antiquity has been discovered must be suspended for 15 days. Within 15 days, the Director must

(1) notify the owner or occupier of the land of the conditions by which work may be continued on the land, or

(2) order that work be permanently stopped. Persons damaged by these orders may demand compensation.

– The Director may declare that an area is an "antiquity site". It is forbidden to make any alterations to such a site or to the antiquities therein. Alterations include building, quarrying or mining, dumping, flooding, writing, carving or painting; or any other changes that the Director prohibits.

– The Minister of Education and Culture is authorized to confiscate an antiquity site for the purposes of conservation or research. He may not, however, expropriate a site which is used for religious purposes.