An Israeli and an Archaeologist

The Fellowship  |  January 26, 2018

An Israeli and an Archaeologist

Eleazar Sukenik

Lived: August 12, 1889 – February 28, 1953

Known for: An Israeli archaeologist, Sukenik was one of the first to recognize the age and importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and also helped uncover the Third Wall in Jerusalem.

Why you should know him: Born to a Jewish family in Bialystok, Poland, Sukenik made aliyah (immigrated) to the Holy Land in 1912, working as a school teacher and tour guide while also studying archaeology. After serving in the 40th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers (which became known as the Jewish Legion) in World War I, Sukenik earned his PhD in archaeology in the United States.

Sukenik helped establish the Department of Archaeology at Hebrew University. In Jerusalem, he excavated the Third Wall, along with countless tombs and other important archaeological sites. He also was one of the first to recognize the age and importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and worked so that Israel could buy them. In 1948, he published a scholarly article about the scrolls’ origin, which is still the consensus to this day. Sukenik received the Solomon Bublick Award from Hebrew University for his work with the scrolls.

Sukenik and his wife Chassia had three sons, each of whom played an important role in Israeli history. Their son Yigael was an IDF soldier, politician, and renowned archaeologist in his own right. Son Yossi was an actor. And son Mati was one of the first Israeli Air Force (IAF) pilots, and lost his life during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948.

Eleazar and his wife were buried in the Sanhedria Cemetery, a historic site he had researched. Their graves are decorated with carvings and motifs from the Second Temple period.

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