Israel is trying to recover 'national treasures' held at Trump's Florida home

Authorities have failed to retrieve the lamps, which Covid left stranded


WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 11: U.S. President Donald Trump is reflected in a mirror as he watches the lighting of the Menorah during a Hanukkah Reception in the East Room of the White House on December 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The Israeli government has been trying to reclaim historical artefacts from Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida for months after he was lent them for a Chanukah party.

Among the antiquities are ancient ceramic oil lamps, which are part of Israel’s "national treasures" collection. The Chanukah lamps were sent to the US in 2019 for a festive event attended by Donald Trump and millionaire Saul Fox, who is a major donor to the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

The lamps were sent with approval from the Authority on the provision that they were returned within weeks. They were intended to be displayed briefly at the White House during the Chanukah party.

The antiquities were neither displayed nor returned. Four years later, Israeli sources told Haaretz that they believed them to be stranded. Israel Hasson, the director of the government body at the time, told Haaretz: “We wanted our man to go and bring it back, but then COVID broke out, and everything got stuck”. 

Saul Fox, who, according to Hasson, was meant to keep the candles in his possession, is a long-time donor to the Israeli Antiquities authority. He helped establish a national centre for antique coins, as well as an archaeological garden at the Knesset.

Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida estate and private members club has previously hosted Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro among other foreign leaders.

It also housed a large volume of presidential records, which Trump moved from the White House after his departure from the presidency. In 2022, FBI agents searched Mar-a-Lago as part of an investigation into his alleged mishandling of classified documents.

A source told Haaretz they wouldn’t be surprised if “the items Israel seeks are also eventually found in some bathroom there”.

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