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June 28: Yigael Yadin

Lawrence Bush
June 27, 2016

yadinYigael Yadin, who was David Ben Gurion’s Head of Operations during the Israeli War of Independence and then Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces from 1949 to 1952, died in Jerusalem at 67 on this date in 1984. Son of archaeologist Eleazar Sukenik and women’s rights activist Hasya Sukenik-Feinsod, Yadin became an archaeologist in his own right who excavated the Qumran Caves, Masada, and Tel Megiddo, among other sites, deciphered several Dead Sea and Judean Desert scrolls, and received the Israel Prize for his work in 1956. In 1970 he became head of the Institute of Archeology at the Hebrew University. “Yadin’s findings,” according to the Jewish Virtual Library, “have shed light on various periods of ancient Israel, such as the Canaanite, First Temple, and Herodian periods, as well as the Bar Kokhba revolt. . . . Yadin also did much to make archaeology a more accessible and less exclusively esoteric field. His writing is both scholarly and of interest to more widespread audiences. He strove not only to document his archaeological findings but to place them in a cultural context and understand them as an avenue to cultural history.” He also served as military advisor to Prime Minister Levi Eshkol on the eve of the 1967 Six-Day War, and served as deputy prime minister of Israel from 1977 to 1981.

“I belong to a school of thought that thinks tradition must be used as a source for history, of course with caution. People don’t invent certain things. For example, you can’t deny that the Israelites were once in Egypt. What nation would invent such a crazy story, that they were slaves in Egypt and they left that country and came to this country, and then make that the kernel of all their history? There is a historical core. Even if you want to minimize it, there is a core of truth there. Maybe it did not happen exactly as it is recorded, down to the last detail. But there is a historical core.” --Yigael Yadin

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.