Economy Minister Naftali Bennett flourished an ancient Jewish coin on American TV on Wednesday to demonstrate the Jewish people’s entitlement to the Land of Israel.
Responding to a question from CNN’s Christiane Amanpour about settlement construction in what she called “the occupied West Bank,” Bennett said that he did not accept the term “occupied.” Taking the coin from his pocket, he held it up to the camera and said, “this coin, which says ‘Freedom of Zion’ in Hebrew, was used by Jews 2,000 years ago in the state of Israel, in what you call occupied. One cannot occupy his own home.”
It was unclear whether the minister, who is currently on a visit to the U.S., was aware that the ancient coin he displayed in New York cannot be legally taken out of Israel. The antiquities law bars taking any antiquity, meaning any object dating from before the year 1700, out of the country without the written permission of the director of the authority or someone acting on the director’s behalf.
“The coin is currently making its way back to Israel, after a Zionist mission in front of tens of millions of Americans,” Bennett’s office said, when asked about its removal from the country. “Next time, the minister’s bureau will be meticulous in advising that the coin is going abroad.”
The coin that made its appearance on CNN is apparently from an archaeological excavation of a Second Temple-era site, meaning the period that ended with the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E. Bennett would have been required to get an export license to take it overseas. Such licenses are routinely issued by the antiquities authority every time a foreign tourist buys antiquities. The licenses generally take a number of weeks to procure, although the authority is currently computerizing the process, which is expected to shorten the wait time.
Bennett’s bureau added: “Incidentally, the coin was legally purchased at a well known, licensed antiquities shop, which proves the ancient saying that there are two sides to every coin.”
Supporters of the minister, who heads the Habayit Hayehudi party, later posted his CNN appearance on YouTube.