Israel’s most celebrated Biblical archaeologist, Yigael Yadin, died of a heart attack on June 28 at the age of 67. The world of Biblical archaeology has been impoverished.
Yadin was struck down at his weekend home in Michmoret on the Mediterranean Sea, suddenly and without warning.
All Israel mourned. The general-archaeologist who had led Israel’s fledgling army in its 1948 War of Independence was given a military funeral. The only eulogy was delivered by the president of the state.
Yadin was born with a trowel in his hand. His father, Eliezer L. Sukenik, was one of the pre-state’s leading archaeologists, a pioneer in a profession in its infancy. Sukenik and his wife Hasya, both staunch Zionists, had emigrated from Poland in 1912 and settled in Jerusalem. Their son Yigael was born on March 21, 1917.
At the age of 15, Yigael Sukenik joined Haganah, the underground defense force of the Jewish community in Palestine. There he acquired the name Yadin. Ben-Gurion insisted that all officers in Haganah have secret code names. Yadin was the name given to young Sukenik. It means “will judge,” as used in a number of Psalms: “The Lord will judge the people” (Psalm 7:8); “the Lord will judge the world in righteousness” (Psalm 9:8). After the war, he kept the name.