Biblical Archaeology Review 29:2, March/April 2003

Appreciation: Elie Borowski, 1913–2003

By William W. HalloHershel Shanks

Biblical Archaeology Review

The Passionate Collector Who Founded the Bible Lands Museum

So the great man is gone. He was a big hulk of a man who moved as if his shoulders wanted to precede him. He moved like a racing rhinoceros. He would grab you by the arm and pull you close to his face. Every sentence that came out of his mouth was an impassioned one.

I first met Elie Borowski, who died in January just short of his 90th birthday, in 1984 when he was still living in his museum/home in Toronto. He was agitated even then. He was willing to donate his collection to the world—or to Canada—if only someone, he would howl, would construct a building to display it. Elie was one of the two or three greatest collectors of Near Eastern antiquities in the world. It goes without saying that his taste was superb, his knowledge extraordinary and his relations with the antiquities underworld highly honed from decades of negotiating.

In the end Canada failed to come through, despite all kinds of plans and promises. The best thing that happened to Elie in those years was his late-in-life marriage to Batya, a savvy, organized, confident American woman who was the only one capable of handling him—and he knew it. It was under her influence that he decided to relocate to Jerusalem. And it was then-Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek who, with his customary uncanny foresight, gave Elie a prime piece of real estate adjacent to the Israel Museum to build his museum.

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