IDF paratroopers training in the Gush Etzion area, last Thursday uncovered an underground water system which had been invaded by antiquities robbers. The underground system, at the site of the biblical Eitam mountain (Givat HaEitam, which is an extension of Efrat), dates back to the First Temple period, Israel’s Channel 20 reported Tuesday.
The paratroopers Brigade Fighters, who participated in a scouting course with the Kfar Etzion Field School, were on a field-orientation exercise near the town of Efrat when they embarked on previously unknown chambers within a First Temple era underground water system – only to discover it had been broken into by antiquities robbers.
The force entering the cave was taken aback by the quantities of dirt that the robbers had removed from the cave in order to expose the inner spaces inside. They also found a pit where the robbers’ tools were stashed. After a safety check, the soldiers entered the cave, where they found some 15 plastic buckets hidden under hills of dirt, alongside remains of food, work tools and leftover ancient artifacts, likely unearthed in the same cave.
Amichai Noam, who led the scouting training course for the paratroopers and also runs the Kfar Etzion Field School, told Channel 20: “The space of the first cave was familiar to us, but the interior spaces were blocked until they were robbed.”
“The scope of the robbery is disturbing,” Noam said, adding, “It is impossible to know what treasures are disappearing out there every night.”