Egypt Stops Attempt to Smuggle Jewish Religious Artifacts

Egyptian authorities claim smugglers wanted to ship the cache of religious artifacts to Belgium.

Crown seized by officials in Damietta, Egypt, April 18, 2014
Crown from a cache of Jewish religious artifacts seized by officials in Damietta, Egypt, April 18, 2014 AP

Authorities in Egypt say they have seized a cache of Jewish religious artifacts that smugglers wanted to ship to Belgium at one of the country's main ports.

Antiquities Minister Mohammed Ibrahim said in a statement Friday that officials found the artifacts while searching cargo Thursday at the coastal city of Damietta.

Among the artifacts are a cylindrical wooden box plated in silver, which would have held Torah scrolls. Officials also found a silver knife dating to roughly 1890 with inscriptions, and bells commonly hung in synagogues.

A committee will study and date the cache, which the statement says "embodies a period of religious tolerance in Egypt's history."

Egypt has experienced a security vacuum since its 2011 uprising. Thousands of artifacts have been stolen.