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Eleazar Sukenik

Eleazar Sukenik, 1951
Born 12 August 1889
Died 28 February 1953
Nationality Israel
Ethnicity Jewish
Fields archaeology
Institutions Hebrew University in Jerusalem

Eleazar Lipa Sukenik (12 August 1889 Bialystok - 28 February 1953 Jerusalem) was an Israeli archaeologist and professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Having arrived in Palestine in 1911 he worked as a school teacher and tour guide. He participated in the "War of the Languages" that erupted among Zionist activists in Palestine in 1913.

He served in the British army in World War I in the 40th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers which became known as the Jewish Legion. Sukenik was an atheist.[1]

In addition to his important excavations in Jerusalem (including the "Third Wall" and numerous ossuary tombs) he played a central role in the establishment of the Department of Archaeology of the Hebrew University. He recognized the importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls to Israel and worked for the Israeli state to buy them. In 1948, he published an article tentatively linking the scrolls and their content to a community of Essenes, which became the standard interpretation of the origin of the scrolls, a theory that is still probably the consensus among scholars, but has also been widely questioned.

He was the father of soldier, politician and archeologist Yigael Yadin, the actor Yossi Yadin, and Mati Yadin, who was killed in action during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.



  1. ^ "I read a few sentences. It was written in beautiful Biblical Hebrew. The language was like that of the Psalms.' One of these was the Isaiah scroll, which I saw recently in the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem: sections of goat-skin parchment, sewn together, 27 feet long. I felt in the presence of something numinous, although I have been a convinced atheist since boyhood. But this document is a testament to the inexplicable persistence of the human mind, in the face of all the evidence, in believing that we are on earth for a divine purpose." Eleazar Sukenik, quoted in Justin Cartwright, 'The indestructible power of belief', The Guardian, 27 May 2000, Saturday Pages, Pg. 3.

Further reading

  • Goldman, Bernard, The Sacred Portal: a primary symbol in ancient Judaic art, Detroit : Wayne State University Press, 1966. A book on an important synagogue mosaic discovered by Sukenik in 1928.


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